Aside from the fierceness that a final typically showcases, Canada entered today's Women's International 7s championship against the Netherlands knowing that its opponents were looking for revenge, having lost to the North Americans in pool play.
"It was the level of intensity I was expecting," Canada captain and championship MVP Mandy Marchak. "We expected nothing less."
The gameplan was to move the ball around Netherlands, which had some size on Canada and was very good stealing possession on the ground. "Our goal is to get through games with a ruck," Canada coach David Tait said. "The less rucking, the less work you have to do attacking, and the easier it is on the defense. There were a few times I thought we could have moved the ball quicker, but that will come with traning, and hopefully they'll start to see the field easier."
But there was nothing easy about the final bout. Early on, the Netherlands struggled to connect on their offloads, which is key for a team with a size advantage. Canada struggled to stick its tackles and the offense had issues executing its game plan.
"We wanted to attack wide, but they were shutting that down early," Tait said. "A credit to our girls, they read the game well and started to attack down the blind. We also fell off a couple of tackles in the first half, but we knew going into the game that they like to offload because they're a big team, so it was important that we got the tackle right, and the girls stepped it up in the second half. And the subs that came on sealed the win for us."
Laura Stoughton was on Tait's list of impact subs. "She came on and really did what we were looking forward," the 7s and 15s coach said. "She kept the ball moving well, talked on defense and shut down the inside, forcing the ball wide. Also, our unsung hero, who is always a forward, is Kelly Russell. She really dominated the contact area and did a good job of securing the ball."
"Our team has been together for three or four days," Marchak added, "and before that, nothing since the World Cup [in September]. Yes, it helped [to have World Cup-ers on the team], because we've played together. But also part of the squad are people who have never played 7s before, and to come in here and play like they've been at it for years and help us to a final's win, was unbelievable."
One such player was wing Magali Harvey, who rebounded from an unfortunate stiff-arm that allowed a try, to scoring the game-winning points. "The game was even more intense than I was anticipating," the former U20 player said. "The World Cup veterans were very useful. Every time I needed help, they showed me where to go, what to do, and without them, I probably wouldn't have played as well."
The fan support, which included the Canada men's team, played a part in the win as well. "It was great," Marchak concluded. "We have tons of fans and family who came out, so that support was huge for us."