Canada won't play for rugby sevens medal after 21-5 loss to Scotland
Saturday, Jul 26, 2014 04:15 pm
GLASGOW, Scotland - Canada's men's rugby sevens team arrived in Glasgow with its hopes pinned on a medal.
But the Canadians proved no match for a Scottish team that had the heart of the host country — and the some-45,000 delirious screaming fans at Ibrox Stadium — behind it.
Canada dropped a 21-5 decision to Scotland on Saturday at the Commonwealth Games in a dramatic battle it needed to win to be in the mix for the medals.
"It always is a factor if it's your home team, isn't it?" coach Kieran Crowley said. "You always see that the home team in a tournament like this does massively well.
"Massive disappointment. We came here with the objective to get a medal. Now we have to recover, obviously be very disappointed, but come morning, we've got to focus on finishing ninth now."
Connor Braid scored the lone try for Canada, which had lost 39-0 to defending champion New Zealand in its opener then bounced back to run roughshod over Barbados 68-5, setting up the must-win game against the Scots.
"Proud of all the guys," said an emotional John Moonlight, Canada's captain. "No matter what happens, that last game I think we put it out there. The score didn't go our way. A lot of things didn't go our way.
"I guess we have to wait four years for another chance. It hurts. You don't forget stuff like this and (Sunday) we're going to come out with three wins, 100 per cent."
Canada, which can finish no better than ninth, will play Trinidad and Tobago in the bowl quarter-final Sunday.
Lee Jones, Richie Vernon and Mark Bennett scored for Scotland in front of a raucous crowd at Ibrox Stadium — normally home to Rangers F.C.
New Zealand had already clinched top spot in Pool A — arguably the toughest pool in the tournament with three of the world's core teams in Canada, the Scots and themselves — with their victory over Canada and a 17-14 win over Scotland.
The Canadians knew they were in for a stiff test against the Scots in the rowdy jam-packed Ibrox Stadium. The noise was deafening when the two teams walked onto the pitch to ACDC's "Thunderstruck." They clapped and stomped their feet and broke into spontaneous chants of "Scot-land!" They booed when a call went Canada's way.
"It's tough but it's cool, it's something you can thrive off of for sure," Braid said of the crowd. "We beat them at home in Glasgow in May, and that was a really good feeling so we were just hunting for that the whole way through.
"It came down to a couple missed tackles, but the boys really put it out there against a really strong Scottish team."
Canada and Scotland are familiar foes, the Canadians edging the Scots in the semifinals of the IRB World Sevens World Series stop in Glasgow earlier this season. Canada went on to make history by reaching the final for the first time, only to be trounced 54-7 by New Zealand.
Still, the Canadians finished a best-ever sixth on the series, while Scotland was 12th.
Trailing 7-0 Saturday, Braid muscled his way across the try line with 1:14 left in the first. But a minute later Vernon scored on a long run down the middle, and Scotland had Canada pinned in its own half for most of the rest of the game.
"There was still plenty of time left," Braid said of the halftime score. "We've come back from bigger deficits before so I don't think we were too worried. But time was just against us. They were pretty good at the breakdown again. Our tackling percentage was a lot better, but still, individual tackles needs to improve."
Canada took the field as the sun was setting after an eight-hour break between games — something the team wasn't pleased about. Crowley said the team "went through the channels to put complaints in about it," to no avail.
The Canadians arrived at Ibrox shortly after 7 a.m. to begin warming up for New Zealand and remained there all day, napping on mattresses and playing board games — Settlers of Catan was the game of choice — in a huge tent set up behind the stadium.
They weren't using the long day as an excuse though.
"(Scotland) had to play two other games in the same time period that we were resting, so it's tit-for-tat really," Braid said.
"It was interesting. The boys got a good nap in, and that's just the way it happens. Sometimes you play at 8 (a.m.) and you're up at 5:30 in the morning. Sometimes you play at 9:30 at night with an eight-hour gap. The show must go on."
In Canada's win against Barbados, John Moonlight, Mike Scholtz and Ciaran Hearn scored two tries apiece, while Braid, Nathan Hirayama, Harry Jones and Justin Douglas each scored one. Hirayama was good on all six conversions and Braid booted three.
They were no match for the mighty New Zealand All-Blacks in their opener. The bigger and faster All-Blacks thoroughly dominated the Canadians, swatting away their tackle attempts like they were brushing away pesky flies.
"Our own defence and penalties let us down," Braid said after the loss. "We had systems in place but we fell apart when it came time."
Rugby sevens will make its Olympic debut in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, and if Saturday's action was any indication, the sport will be a massive hit. More than 185,000 sevens tickets have been sold, including a sellout on Sunday.
The game, featuring seven players aside and two seven-minute halves, is played at a breakneck pace, keeping fans captivated. Saturday at Ibrox, they cheered almost as lustily for teams such as Barbados and Uganda as they did for their own Scots.
After Barbados' 59-0 rout by New Zealand, the crowd gave the losing team a standing ovation. They cheered on Uganda when that country scored three tries in the final two minutes to beat Sri Lanka. The Uganda players ran towards the crowd with delight after the game.
New Zealand meanwhile, is gunning for its fifth gold medal in rugby sevens, having won the title all four times the sport has been in the Games.
The All-Blacks will play Kenya — second in Pool B — in the quarter-finals. South Africa won Pool B and will face Scotland in the quarters. Pool C winner Samoa faces England, and Australia, winners of Pool D, meet Wales.