Five T-Birds showcased at Vancouver HSBC Ruby Sevens

Most people spent their reading break traveling, studying or catching up on sleep. Piper Logan, a third-year student at UBC, spent it playing professional rugby in front of 67,753 fans at BC Place.

The HSBC Rugby Sevens tournament came to Vancouver February 23–25 as the fourth stop on the World Rugby SVNS Series route.

Logan and Florence Symonds of the Canadian women’s sevens team are both products of the UBC women’s rugby program while Jack Carson, Matthew Percillier and Phil Berna on the men’s national team are UBC alumni.

Women have historic weekend

Coming into the tournament this season, the Canadian women’s team was ranked sixth and last year, they were also sixth on home soil. This year, the team earned bronze medals.

The round-robin play of the tournament highlighted the Canadians’ strengths. Symonds showed she is a key playmaker for the team, setting up or making try-scoring plays herself, and Logan — and the whole team — displayed a high rugby IQ.

Symonds passes the ball in the round robin game against Spain.
Symonds passes the ball in the round robin game against Spain. Isa S. You / The Ubyssey

The crowd never lost its energy, dancing, singing and cheering the entire weekend. Flags from every country were waving at some point — although there was always more red and white. For the Canadian team, and head coach Jack Hanratty, playing at home is a unique type of energy.

“You're playing in front of friends and family and you're playing in front of people that know your name — and that's really special,” he said.

“We want to make this a normal thing that the younger athletes in the crowd go ‘What an amazing play by Florence Symonds’ or ‘What a try by Krissy Scurfield,’" said Hanratty. "We want to make that the norm and … we’ve taken a step forward to that [playing in BC Place].”

With their loss to France and wins against Great Britain and Spain, Canada secured a quarter final spot, facing the USA.

The rivalry game was a very tight back-and-forth battle, with both teams defending well. Charity Williams broke the line first and after a high tackle on her sent the US to the sin bin, Scurfield scored to put them up 7–0. Right before the half, Symonds scored in the far corner to increase the lead to 12–0, after a missed convert.

Symonds's game-winning try.
Symonds's game-winning try. Isa S. You / The Ubyssey

However, the USA didn’t back down. Ariana Ramsey slipped down the side of the pitch evading tackles for a try. Although not tied, the 12–5 score put the pressure on the Canadians.

They started to play rougher, with a yellow card being issued and Symonds going down with an injury — unfortunately, she didn’t play the rest of the tournament and was later seen in crutches and a knee brace. Two players down, Ramsey scored a second time. With no time left on the clock, the conversion would determine if Canada would advance.

The ball went wide and the home crowd erupted.

“If you're in the top four of a competition in the HSBC series, the top four is always going to be the best teams in the world,” said Hanratty. “We want to be talked about as being one of them because we haven't been over the last while but we just took a step closer.”

Although the Canadian team is young — their average age is 23.5 compared to the US’s 28.3 — Hanratty said that’s what makes them tenacious.

“One of the things that we've had to do is we've had to learn with a lot of sorrow. We've had plenty of defeats,” he said.

“For us to be able to show that grit and rugby IQ, that all comes from the likes of Fancy [Bermudez], Piper [Logan], Florence [Symonds] having experience. But not the experience of winning, they have experience of losing games.”

Piper Logan warms up before a game.
Piper Logan warms up before a game. Isa S. You / The Ubyssey

With the win, Canada had a chance to do the best they have at home since 2017, when they placed second. However, after falling 15–7 to New Zealand in the semi final, the Canadians would have to settle for playing for bronze.

“I thought we were pretty close to New Zealand today, but they're a smart rugby team,” said Hanratty. “They're physical, and you gotta stay on for 14 minutes.”

The bronze medal game was tense — Canada was playing for their best performance yet, while their opponents, Australia, were set for their worst of the season, having finished first or second in the past three tournaments.

Piper Logan speeding past Great Britain for a try in round-robin play.
Piper Logan speeding past Great Britain for a try in round-robin play. Isa S. You / The Ubyssey

Canada got on the board first as Scurfield scored just 30 seconds into play after a three quarter field run. Australia struck back, finding a break in the line with speed to tie the game at seven apiece.

Chloe Daniels and Williams both scored in the second half, increasing the hometown team’s lead to 19–7. Australia fended off a tackle and scored under the posts to narrow the lead with 40 seconds left, but Canada held their ground.

Charity Williams celebrates her try against Australia.
Charity Williams celebrates her try against Australia. Gibi Saini / The Ubyssey

Once the buzzer rang, Williams kicked the ball out of bounds and the team poured on the field, jumping into each other’s arms in celebration of their season's first HSBC medal.

“It's been a long time coming for us to reach a podium,” said Logan. “It took a full team effort.”

“Our goal this whole season was to peak here at home with this crowd,” she said. “To be able to do it with this team and with these people, it's just so special.”

“To be able to do it with this team and with these people, it's just so special," said Logan.
“To be able to do it with this team and with these people, it's just so special," said Logan. Isa S. You / The Ubyssey

Men fall short

Unfortunately, the men didn’t rise to the same occasion as the women, finishing 12th out of 12 teams.

The Canadians had the work set out for them as the first match was against top-ranked Argentina. They started looking good with a lot of possession and defensive strength, especially holding their opponents back in the red zone. There was no scoring until just before the half, when Argentina pushed over the line for a 7–0 lead.

In the second half, there was more back-and-forth play. That is, until Alex Russell ran down the sidelines, eliciting an eruption in the crowd as the Canadian men scored their first try. With an unsuccessful convert, the score narrowed to 7–5 and the red and white continued with their momentum.

Shortly after, Kalin Sager found a break in the line and ran halfway down the pitch. Although he was caught, he offloaded to Berna. Berna also went down, but not before passing behind his back to Carson, who took it into the endzone. The play, which made its way around the highlight reels, changed the score 10–7 for Canada with just two minutes left.

Carson touched down the ball for Canada's first lead.
Carson touched down the ball for Canada's first lead. Isa S. You / The Ubyssey

However, in the last 30 seconds, Argentina snuck through a gap in the defensive line, turning the tide once more for an end score of 12–10 for the opposition.

“We definitely rose to the occasion,” Berna, the team’s captain, said. “Credit to the fans and having that home field advantage a little bit.”

“But we're here to win games.”

The next round-robin games was against Fiji, a surprising Vancouver favourite. Against Fiji, Canada started out strong, scoring first on the edge of the pitch. But Fiji bounced back with their physical play and speed. After Fiji’s second try tied the game again, the red and white began to crumble, missing tackles and knocking the ball on — a third Fiji try sealed the game 17–12.

Phil Berna goes for the offload in the game against Fiji.
Phil Berna goes for the offload in the game against Fiji. Gibi Saini / The Ubyssey

This momentum carried into their next game against Spain. Although they had good moments, like a Carson try and capitalizing on penalties, Canada failed to keep ball possession and hold their defensive line the entire game. Spain won the game 31–14.

Head coach Sean White noted that finding consistency as a group and polishing their game would be a key for the team moving forward.

“We're still building this confidence,” he said. “I want the players to play free and open and learn through that rather than learning through, what might be the right option or overthinking things.”

“I want them to be out there reacting and putting their best foot forward.”

Carson, who graduated from UBC last year, is in his first complete year of playing professional rugby for the national team and seems to be adjusting well.

“It's nice not to be doing accounting homework between the practice days,” he said. “It's been a great experience to really fully be part of the team.”

Carson runs for a try against Spain.
Carson runs for a try against Spain. Isa S. You / The Ubyssey

The next game was against the Republic of South Africa, and the men still couldn’t catch a break. At halftime, South Africa held a comfortable 15–0 lead. In the second half, Canada’s Josiah Morra intercepted a long pass and ran the whole field to cut the score to 15–7 with four minutes left. The teams traded another set of tries and just when it seemed Canada could win the game on a loose grubber ball in extra time, their opponents kicked it out of bounds to end the game 20–14.

In their last game, determining 11th place, Canada faced Spain again. Russell put the red and white on the board first after a long run, but it wasn’t long after that Spain reciprocated. Carson played a pick-and-go to put Canada in the lead again, but a blindside run from Spain tied it up again. Percillier made game-saving tackles to keep the score even, but Canada’s best shot at the tie-breaker was stopped by a forward pass.

The clock ran out, so the teams went to sudden-death extra time.

Spain found an overlap and scored, but the referee recalled it due to a forward pass. The red and white couldn’t capitalize on this and Spain scored — officially this time — on an overlap, ending the game 17–12.

The loss put the home team in last place for the third time this season.

“There's a sense of disappointment in the group. We did the work to give ourselves opportunities, but I think we just got to work on kind of executing in the end,” said Carson.

Both teams will look to improve over the next couple months before the SVNS Series comes to an end in Madrid, Spain from May 31 to June 2.

“A positive we can take away is we are creating opportunities,” Carson said. “We just need to take that next step and get us to the next level.”