Lachlan Kratz offloaded the ball to Matthew Percillier, who had found an opening on the left field. With the opportunity to take the lead in Canada’s second game of the HSBC Canada Sevens tournament, Percillier sprinted down the line. As he slid into the try zone, the crowd exploded; stands full of fans draped in Canadian flags were on their feet, cheering their hearts out.
Although their opponents, defending bronze medal champions Australia, scored soon after, Percillier found the end zone again to give Canada a 10–5 lead going into the half. The lead only grew from there, and Canada ended the first night of the tournament with a win over Australia — a huge victory, largely thanks to Percillier.
Percillier is currently playing out his second year of eligibility on UBC’s men’s rugby team. He was one of four current UBC students representing Canada in the rugby sevens tournament at BC Place. Alongside Percillier was Jack Carson from the men’s side and Piper Logan and Florence Symonds from UBC women’s rugby.
Symonds had represented Canada in December at the Cape Town stop of the series, while Logan made her international debut at the tournament.
Although the Canadian women’s team played some great defence in their first two games, it wasn’t until the second day of the tournament that they reaped the rewards of their hard work. Logan fiercely tackled and jumped into ruck after ruck. Then in the last minute of Canada versus Brazil, she scored the first try of her international career on her home turf, surrounded by family and friends.
“It’s such a special moment, especially hearing your teammates behind you just telling you to go, backing you and giving you the confidence to trust yourself and trust your speed,” said Logan.
The win would allow them to stay in the championship running and face the first-ranked New Zealand Black Ferns in the quarterfinals.
Canada played some incredible rugby, keeping the entire stadium on its toes. Despite going down 10–0 in the first half, Canada shortened the gap to 5 in the 11th minute. They put up a fight until the very last moment, but ultimately New Zealand lived up to their reputation, taking the match 10–5.
The energy never left the stadium at BC Place on Saturday. A large Canadian flag made its way around the bowl several times, as did the wave. Fans were playing bagpipes, singing and dancing.
“It’s hard not to play well with this crowd,” said Logan. “They put on one hell of a show.”
The energy only escalated when in the first two minutes of the Canadian men’s game against Chile, Jack Carson got sent to the sin bin for illegally blowing up the ruck with a dump tackle.
It was never a setback for Canada though, and Percillier got to show off his now signature diving try twice more in the closing minutes of each half.
The Canadian fans’ hopes were starting to soar as the men closed out the match with a cool 35–7 win, and prepared for their next match against Spain.
This game was much more back and forth. Once again, Carson stole the show within the first few minutes. Every fan was on their feet cheering as the jumbo screen showed Jack sprinting down an open field with a giant grin on his face to score Canada’s first try.
However, with every try scored, Spain matched. Both UBC players committed try-saving tackles throughout the game, but Spain managed to collect one more try than Canada by the final whistle.
In their last game of the tournament, Canada faced the Republic of South Africa, and while once again both Carson and Percillier performed some amazing tackles, the opposition walked away with the victory.
“It’s a really great experience,” said Carson. “I’m graduating this spring, so hopefully they ask me back to this team and I can continue helping the side.”
The final day for the women took a different path. Their first game was an eerie matchup mirroring their first day of the tournament. Ireland had beaten Canada with the widest score margin that the women had experienced all weekend. However, the match ended in yet another statistical upset, with Canada reigning victorious 24–12.
The win was made even sweeter by the realization that they would be playing for fifth place in their final game, guaranteeing Canada the highest place they had qualified for entire season.
In the final match against Fiji, the women played some incredible rugby. They kept the score really close but the game ended with Canada one try behind and both UBC players injured.
Logan got hurt in the final game and Symonds had been out injured after the first day of the tournament. However, neither seemed deterred or disappointed by their injuries. When asked about it, both expressed their gratitude to be here with their fellow UBC teammate and how wonderful it’s been to play on the world stage together.
“I’m super grateful to be here with all of my friends and family around,” said Symonds.
During the games that she was on the field, Symonds was a defensive machine — a title also given to her by Canada head coach Jack Hanratty.
She would track her opposite until she took them down, then get up to ruck her own tackle and immediately go tackle the next receiver.
“In the past few weeks especially, coming back from injury, I’ve been working a lot more on my defensive focus — tracking, tackling — and I’m just really happy with how that went,” said Symonds. “We put our entire bodies on the line, it was a big battle out there of the best of the best, and it was great.”
“[Logan and Symonds] are two incredible athletes, still learning a lot about the game, but they brought so much energy,” said Hanratty. “I know they’re only coming back from injuries but I’m excited to see what they do in the coming weeks and months.”
The women finished the tournament in 6th place, which remains the highest they’ve placed this season, and the men tied for 15th. For the UBC athletes, this was just the beginning.
Carson and Percillier are coming off of a Canadian Men’s University Championship win with the UBC team this season.
“The game really never changes,” said Percillier. “Playing alongside Jack is awesome cause we already have that synergy and chemistry between the two. But it really doesn't change, honestly, it’s just a bigger crowd.”
Logan and Symonds mentioned throughout the weekend that many of their teammates were competing the same weekend at Thunderbird Stadium for the final leg of the Canada West sevens tournament and wished them all the best.
Logan said she is thankful to be a part of UBC’s program and that it has helped push her to achieve her goals.
“I can’t wait for more of us to come up from UBC into the national programs.”