Canada’s men and women have claimed rugby sevens gold on home soil at the Pan American Games 2015 in Toronto.
The Canadian men claimed their second consecutive gold medal after beating Argentina 22-19 in a pulsating final, while the female counterparts defeated the USA 55-7 in the first-ever Pan Am Games women’s sevens event on a memorable day.
The USA defeated Uruguay 40-12 in the men’s bronze match, while Brazil, hosts of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, showed their strength with a 29-0 win over Argentina to claim bronze in the women’s event.
With rugby sevens’ global popularity and appeal going from strength to strength, rugby was the winner on a weekend that saw a crowd close to 20,000 create a festival atmosphere at Exhibition Stadium as they were thrilled across two compelling days of competition.
Canada win back-to-back gold medals
The men’s competition was very similar to the first Games in Guadalajara with the first five positions mirroring those of four years ago. With all eyes on the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Brazil’s good form continued as they moved up one place to fifth.
With the level of competition intense, Canada’s road to the final was not straightforward. Three times they survived what seemed like probable losses.
After losing to Argentina 21-7 in pool play, they started the second day with a quarter-final against Chile. Trailing 12-5, they were awarded a penalty as the hooter sounded and they relentlessly attacked. Chile, desperate to defend their try-line, gave away penalties and two players were sin-binned as the Canadians continued to attack.
Seven against five seemed a fait-accompli but the Canadians knocked-on and a Chilean player instead of kicking for touch kicked deep with the ball stopping only one yard from Canada’s dead-ball line, giving the home side an extra life.
They took the opportunity and scored under the posts at the other end of the field to draw the game, a good couple of minutes after the hooter. They went on to win thanks to a Phil Mack try in sudden death.
In the semi-final, against the in-form USA, they led 12-0 before two Carlin Isles tries and another from Martin Iosefo saw the Americans scored 19 unanswered points. Nathan Hirayama tied the scores up before Canada stole a dramatic win when Admir Cejvanovic scored under the posts at the hooter to send them to their second Pan Am final.
The final was equally dramatic and kept the crowd on the edge of their seats. Argentina took a 12-0 lead after tries from Franco Sabato and Bautista Ezcurra, but tries either side of half-time from Conor Trainor tied the scores up.
Argentina edged ahead once more through Santiago Alvarez, but the Canada’s kept hopes alive when Phil Mack sliced through the defence. The conversion was missed and once again Canada trailed when the hooter sounded, only for a clever chip from Hirayama to be collected by Harry Jones (pictured), who shrugged off two tacklers to score the gold-medal clinching try.
“We didn’t make any of our games easy, but we wanted to be inspirational, and I think we accomplished that,” admitted captain John Moonlight.
“The final play of the gold medal match – that last ditch effort by everyone – was exactly what we needed. Our teams plays with a lot of heart, and we will never give up on any match. Matches like today’s shows that anything is possible in rugby sevens.”
Canada’s women build on series form to claim gold
Canada’s women were utterly dominant in their pursuit of the gold medal, to the delight of the capacity crowd.
They scored 47 tries in six matches, with World Rugby Player of the Year 2014 Magali Harvey responsible for six of them. Their defence was also solid as they conceded just three tries, all scored by beaten finalists USA – two in the round robin stage and the third in the gold medal game.
They started their campaign by beating Colombia 55-0 (scoring nine tries), then Mexico 60-0 (10 tries) and Brazil 36-0 (six tries) on the opening day. On Sunday it was 45-0 against Argentina and 34-12 against USA (scoring six tries).
At the end of round robin there were two clear finalists, with the USA also scoring some big wins. But the strength of the home team was too much for their neighbours in a one-side final.
Kristen Thomas had actually given the USA the lead but Canada hit back in impressive fashion through Harvey, Karen Paquin (pictured), Ghislaine Landry and captain Jen Kish to head into half-time with a 26-7 advantage.
Harvey, Paquin and Landry grabbed their second tries after the break before Ashley Steacy rounded off the scoring to mean that Canada ended the inaugural competition with a record of scored 285 and conceded only 19.
“To share our win with the crowd, the Canadian fans who back us every single day, and boost us on the field, is an amazing feeling,” said Kish. “It’s a dream come true, because as an athlete, you want to play in big stadiums like this, and you want the support of the Canadian crowd, and that’s exactly what we got.
“There’s definitely going to be more great days for this team. Every time we put on the Canadian jersey, we want to give the best performance we can, and we’re always cup hunting. We always want to be the best that we can be as we build towards Rio 2016. Ultimately we want to put in the best performance, and when we do that, the gold medal will be around our necks.”
World Rugby Council Member and Chairman of the Pan American Rugby Association Agustín Pichot was delighted with a highly successful competition: “Rugby sevens proved again why it is going to be a great success at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
“We had big crowds that enjoyed two wonderful, action-packed days of rugby, full of emotion and great tries. Since rugby sevens debuted at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara four years ago, it has grown enormously in the continent and the addition of women’s rugby here has made it even bigger and better. The way the Canadians won at home is also a great advertisement for the game here. “
Pichot, who led Argentina to semi-finals of Rugby World Cups in both 15s and sevens, was delighted to see teams such as Chile and Uruguay pushing their more experienced opponents.
“The progress of every team was evident in a very competitive tournament and it was a wonderful advertisement for our sport,” he said.
“The values of rugby and the way we interact with multi-sports events is incredibly positive. As a dress rehearsal for the Olympic Games it couldn’t have been better.”
"Rugby sevens proved again why it is going to be a great success at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games."
Pan American Games results
USA 26–7 Chile
Uruguay 34–0 Mexico
Argentina 19–7 Brazil
Canada 45–0 Guyana
USA 48–0 Mexico
Uruguay 20–17 Chile
Argentina 41–0 Guyana
Canada 26–14 Brazil
Chile 38–0 Mexico
USA 52–0 Uruguay
Brazil 31–5 Guyana
Argentina 21–7 Canada
USA 31–0 Guyana
Canada 17–12 Chile (AET)
Uruguay 12–5 Brazil
Fifth to eighth places
Chile 31–0 Guyana
Brazil 14–7 Mexico
Canada 26–19 USA
Argentina 43–7 Uruguay
Seventh place play-off: Guyana 26–22 Mexico
Fifth place play-off: Brazil 12–7 Chile
Bronze medal play-off: USA 40–12 Uruguay
Final: Canada 22–19 Argentina
Canada 55–0 Colombia
USA 26–7 Brazil
Argentina 40–5 Mexico
USA 40–0 Colombia
Brazil 22–5 Argentina
Canada 60–0 Mexico
USA 54–7 Argentina
Canada 36–0 Brazil
Colombia 24–19 Mexico
Canada 45–0 Argentina
Brazil 29–0 Colombia
USA 71–0 Mexico
Argentina 5–5 Colombia
Brazil 57–0 Mexico
Canada 34–12 USA
Fifth place play-off: Mexico 17–17 Colombia
Bronze medal play-off: Brazil 29–0 Argentina
Final: Canada 55–7 USA
5. Mexico and Colombia
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