Canada’s rugby sevens teams at the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games that took place in the Bahamas last month didn’t have a lot of time to prepare, but once they came together, they were forces to be reckoned with.
The Canadian women’s team came home with a silver medal, and the men just missed the podium with a fourth-place result. Both sides boasted among their ranks players from the Cowichan Valley.
“I definitely think we did as well as we could with what we were given,” said Duncan’s Denise Roy, who won silver in the women’s competition. “Obviously we didn’t have a lot of time to practice together.”
The weather — 33 C temperatures and 74 per cent humidity — was also something the players had to adapt to quickly.
“Definitely not what we’re used to playing in,” Roy said.
The Canadian women dominated their first four games, prevailing 33-0 over Wales, 40-7 over Fiji, 64-0 over Bermuda and 31-0 over Trinidad and Tobago before falling to Australia 24-17. They met Australia again in the gold-medal game, and lost 31-5.
“We had a shot to win against them,” Roy said. “It was disappointing playing against them the second time and not being able to perform as well.”
One of the older players on the under-18 side, Roy started most of Canada’s games and scored two tries: one against Wales and one the first time Canada played Australia.
Shawnigan Lake’s Reece Tudor-Jones didn’t come home with a medal from the men’s competition, but enjoyed the experience nonetheless.
“It was pretty sweet,” he admitted.
The men managed a 19-15 win over Sri Lanka in their opener, then lost to England 26-10 before rounding out the first day with a 21-19 victory over Fiji. On the second day of play, they trounced the Bahamas 42-0, then lost to Samoa 33-5. Fiji won the rematch for bronze 28-14.
“They were a great team,” Tudor-Jones said of Fiji. “The second time, I think they played the same, we played the same, but we made a couple little mistakes, and they picked up the ball where it was dropped. They see those little mistakes and score on us.”
Tudor-Jones scored several tries during the competition, including one in each match on the first day. The feeling as he touched the ball down for Canada was a memorable one.
“It’s wicked, actually,” he said. “It gives you a little boost when you’re running back to kick.”
This was Tudor-Jones’s first time representing Canada, and he revelled in the experience.
“The first day, putting the jersey on to go to our first match, we all looked at them for a minute or two before we put them on, to let it soak in,” he said. “The best part, other than playing all the other countries, was bonding with the guys I had never met before. That’s always my favourite part of playing with a team, getting to know the other guys.”
This was Roy’s third tour with the U18 team and fifth time suiting up for Canada, but they are all special.
“Every experience is pretty amazing, getting to play against different teams and stuff,” she said.
There is a U18 tour to France this September, and Roy is working toward that. Tudor-Jones, meanwhile, will play for Team BC at the U17 nationals in Calgary later this summer, and is hoping to play for the Canadian sevens team again as they have a competition in New Zealand in December and qualification for the Youth Olympic Games after that.
“It would be great to be called up again,” he said.