All eyes focused on Canada during the opening round of the Women’s International 7s Invitational, and they didn’t disappoint with a 26-0 win over Brazil. Although it was no surprise that the world’s most successful team in 2011 won their opener, it was not an ideal way to begin the day.
“We got to the field late and rushed through our warmup,” Canada’s Ashley Patzer said. “We got onto the field and just had to snap into it. That said, we came together well, worked our new defensive system and trusted each other. Our offense ran hard and it played out in our favor.”
Canada’s squad is very familiar with each other as staples like Patzer, captain Kelly Russell, Mandy Marchak, Barbara Mervin and Jen Kish, among others, populated the roster. Canada welcomed some younger players in Bianca Farella and Arielle Dubissette-Borrice, who came on at center and wing in the second half prevented any Brazilian tries.
“Mandy [Marchak] always has a phenomenal game,” Patzer recalled players who stood out against Brazil. “ Kelly Russell stole a lot of ball and created turnovers and attacking opportunities for us.”
Moving forward and considering the tournament as a whole, Patzer insisted that defense was the focus of Canada time in Las Vegas.
“We’ll bend but we won’t break,” Patzer said. “That’s been our motto for the tournament.”
Following Canada’s win, the Maple Leafs took the field against France for the teams’ opener. The opening minutes were pretty even until a dangerous tackle and red card put the Maple Leafs down one player for the remainder of the game.
“It was a huge factor,” Maple Leaf coach Sandro Fiorino said after the 14-5 loss. “That’s a lot of field to cover against a pretty talented French team that moves the ball sideline to sideline. It’s very challenging cardiovascular wise. We did our best, but they found the holes in our defense and took advantage of them.”
France missed a couple of opportunities to run up the score, as the exchanges weren’t as smooth as they could be. One such error led to the Maple Leafs’ lone try of the game, when an errant switch led to a kick ahead into the try zone. A foot race to the corner ensued, and Canada dotted down for the try.
“Unfortunately we had some momentum later in the game, but France took advantage of our mental lapses,” Fiorino added.
The Maple Leafs are poised to play the USA in the upcoming round.
“We’ve played against the USA a lot,” Fiorino said. “They know our strengths, but we’re going to stick to our game plan. The USA looked good in that game [against Japan]. They have a lot of skilled players with good speed. We’ll need to work really hard on defense and create some turnovers.”