Hold your applause for Canada's consolation win at Paris 7s
Men's squad comes home with hardware as exasperating season winds down
It's true. Canada won a trophy. Hold your applause.
It is a real trophy — just not THE trophy.
There were smiles in the sunshine — smiles of relief as much as joy. The Challenge Trophy — aka the Consolation Cup - is heading back to Langford, B.C.
WATCH | Canada vs. Ireland in Challenge Trophy final:
Fittingly, at the conclusion of an exasperating season, Canada earned some relatively meaningless hardware. The reality is hard to stomach. For the 8th time in 10 tournaments, Canada failed to make the Cup quarter-finals.
The overall stats do not make pleasant reading. 9th place in Paris means the Canadians finish 11th overall in the World Sevens Series — their lowest mark for three seasons after cracking the top 10 in both 2017 and 2018.
The underlying causes have been well documented. A lack of pre-season preparation triggered by internal disagreements between players and management took its toll. The sudden removal of Damian McGrath as head coach did nothing to lighten the mood.
But players are paid to perform. In trying circumstances, they did their best.
Canada will need all hands on deck
The evergreen Nathan Hirayama topped 250 points – only three men scored more on the circuit all season. Who knows how long he'll stick with the program? Canada can ill afford to be without him.
Connor Braid touched down 24 tries before getting injured in London. His tireless work rate rightly earned him global plaudits. His impact on Team Canada has never been greater.
Then there's the future. We got a glimpse of it in Paris in the form of Josiah Morra. The 21-year-old Torontonian sped his way to 6 tries in Paris — not bad for a player who arrived in France as the reserve 13th man.
Adam Zaruba may not be good enough for the NFL — but Team Canada will take him. The 6-foot-5 man-mountain followed up his impressive showing in London with two more tries in France. He will never be the quickest, but his sheer power takes some stopping.
An honourable mention for Cooper Coats. The former Acadia University soccer player, from Halifax scored his first try in a Canadian jersey during a convincing win over England. Whatever happens from now on, he will always have Paris.
The ultimate goal
Canada can now focus on what really matters. In little more than a month, all eyes will be on the Cayman Islands — the venue for Olympic qualifying. Without the USA to block its path, Canada should start as the favourite to make it to Japan.
The Americans are already there. The Eagles earned their spot after a breakout season that saw them finish second only to new champions Fiji. The breathtaking speed of Carlin Isles — the only man to top 50 tries this season — is just one reason the USA has to be taken seriously as an Olympic medal contender.
What of the new kings? Fiji is rightly back on top of the Rugby Sevens world after a blistering finish to the season. The Pacific islanders were a class apart in London and repeated the feat in Paris. If you don't love the way Fiji plays this game, then please, I beg you, try another sport.
We are not quite finished.
In two weeks time, Canadian sevens fans may really have something to shout about.
The Women's team should seal its Olympic berth in France. It made the podium at Rio 2016; you can be sure it will be dead set on doing so again in Tokyo.