John Moonlight. Photo by Ian Muir
John Moonlight. Photo by Ian Muir

Submitted by Bryan Kelly

Canada’s men’s sevens team finished 13th at the Dubai Sevens in Damian McGrath’s first HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournament as Canada’s head coach. Canada fell to Kenya in the trophy quarterfinals but rebounded for wins over Russia and Uganda.

Canada are back in action next weekend at the Cape Town Sevens in South Africa.

CANADA 14-22 KENYA

In a first half that didn’t see Canada enter their opposition’s half, it was always going to be a tough turnaround in the second half for Damian McGrath’s side. Kenya leaped to a 10-0 lead at the break thanks to tries from Cyprian Cuto and Augustine Lugonzo but a yellow card to Willy Ambaka gave Canada some hope to start the second half.

A Nathan Hirayama line break saw Justin Douglas end up the beneficiary as Canada got on the board quickly to start the half with Hirayama’s conversion cutting the lead to 10-7. Despite sustained pressure in the Kenyan half, Canada were unable to take advantage as Nelson Oyoo and Leonard Muigasi extended Kenya’s lead to 22-7.

Canada did manage to score a second try as debutant Karsten Leitner powered over from close range. Caleb Jordan also made his series debut for Canada as a second half replacement.

CANADA 27-5 RUSSIA

Head coach Damian McGrath earned his first win as Canada boss in a comprehensive performance from the Canadian side. First half tries from Pat Kay, Justin Douglas and Nathan Hirayama gave Canada a commanding 17-0 lead at half time.

After Vladislav Lazarenko pulled a try back for Russia, Canada sealed victory through Matt Mullins and a second Kay try in a dominant five-try victory.

CANADA 20-17 UGANDA

It was a back and forth affair in the 13th place final as a last gasp Nathan Hirayama try secured Canada three points in the opening tournament. Captain John Moonlight scored his first try of the new season less than 30 seconds in but a Philip Wokorach converted try gave Uganda a 7-5 lead.

Uganda’s Byron Oketayot was shown yellow in the fifth minute allowing Moonlight once again to capitalize and restore the Canadian lead. But once more Uganda came roaring back as Lawrence Ssebulida touched down to give the tournament debutants a slender 12-10 advantage at half time.

Half time replacement Phil Berna pushed Canada back ahead 15-12 before Michael Okorach scored his first series try in the 13th minute to give Uganda a 17-15 lead. However, Canada were rescued on the final play of the game as Hirayama barged his way over the try line to give Canada a narrow 20-17 victory.

Canada’s Roster for the Dubai Sevens (Name, club, hometown):

Phil Berna – (UBC Thunderbirds) Vancouver, BC

Justin Douglas – (Abbotsford RFC/BC Bears) Abbotsford, BC

Mike Fuailefau – (Castaway Wanderers/BC Bears) Victoria, BC

Nathan Hirayama – (UVic Vikes/BC Bears) Richmond, BC

Harry Jones – (Capilano RFC/BC Bears) Vancouver, BC

Caleb Jordan – (Montreal Wanderers) Montreal, QC

Pat Kay – (Castaway Wanderers/BC Bears) Duncan, BC

Karsten Leitner – (UBC Thunderbirds) Vancouver, BC

Luke McCloskey – (Castaway Wanderers) Victoria, BC

John Moonlight – (James Bay AA/Ontario Blues) Pickering, ON

Matt Mullins – (Queen’s University/Ontario Blues) Bellville, ON

Liam Underwood – (Balmy Beach RFC/Ontario Blues) Toronto, ON

Adam Zaruba – (Capilano RFC/BC Bears) Vancouver, BC

Coaching Staff:

Head Coach – Damian McGrath

Assistant Coach – Lee Douglas

Physiotherapist – Danielle Mah

Analyst – Calum Ramsay

Manager – Brian Hunter

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