The HSBC Singapore Sevens sure does bring the best out of teams on the world series. In two years, there have been two different winners, with both victors lifting a tournament Cup for the first time ever. First, it was Kenya in 2016, now Canada have gone and done the seemingly very possible and won their first series event. A tournament has rarely produced so many twists and turns in its infancy.
A young tournament it may be, but some of the players on the pitch have been familiar faces on the series for a long time. Canada’s Nathan Hirayama is one of those. Only recently in Hong Kong did the 29-year-old become the all-time top points scorer for Canada, surpassing 1000 points and the legendary Phil Mack.
The lynch pin in coach Damian McGrath’s backline, Hirayama was crucial in his side’s 26-19 win over USA in the Cup final. Whether launching restart kicks into orbit, or his trademark jinking runs, he was a tour de force.
“I am speechless. I am so proud of the boys,” said Hirayama after the final. “We’ve been working so hard for a long time. It feels good to put it together. Fiji was a wake-up call, it wasn’t good enough, but we just kept on rolling today.
“Coach gave us a bit of a talking to on Saturday night and we came out on Sunday and just wanted to make him proud. We took it one game at a time and the rest is unbelievable. We’re so grateful for all the support back home.”
Day one for Canada had been a mixed bag, beating Russia and Hong Kong comfortably but McGrath’s side finished the day with a 35-7 hiding by Fiji. In the Cup quarter-finals they faced New Zealand and this is where Hirayama made his biggest impact of the entire weekend, scoring three tries and three conversions to provide 21 points in their 26-21 victory over the All Blacks Sevens.
“Fiji was a wake up call for us,” said head coach McGrath. “But these guys are great players. I haven’t done anything out of the ordinary with them apart from give them a little bit of self-belief. From the quarter-finals onwards just showed how special this group of players are.”