By Steve Keating
LIMA (Reuters) – Canada’s women defended their Pan Am Games rugby sevens crown on Sunday while the men’s team found a silver lining in being dethroned by a rampaging Argentina.
Winger Asia Hogan-Rochester tore through the United States with three tries to lead a young squad to a convincing 24-10 win over their arch-rivals.
But moments later, Argentina brought the men’s team’s reign to a shuddering end with a 33-10 victory that left the Canadians walking off the field, thinking about next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
“From within the group it was: ‘You know what? At least this is not the Olympics’,” said Canadian men’s coach Henry Paul.
“As a coach you just ask the guys for effort and I thought we had a lot of effort there, we just didn’t react fast enough.
“I think the early try from us really woke them up.”
Canada began the gold medal contest smartly with Josiah Morra scoring the opening try but it was all downhill from there as Argentina, sparked by two tries from Luciano Daniel Gonzalez Rizzoni, stormed to 21-5 halftime lead, then piled on the punishment.
Both the men’s and women’s bronze medal games needed extra-time to decide.
The United States beat Brazil 24-19 to take third place on the men’s podium while Colombia topped Brazil 29-24 in the women’s.
Like the men, the Canadian women got on the scoreboard first with a Hogan-Rochester try but never lost control as the U.S. had no answer to Canada’s speed and resolve.
“The girls just really wanted it,” said coach Morgan Williams. “They played together as a 12 and they have been very tight all week.
“I could see it before the game, they were up, they were dancing I hadn’t seen that energy in previous games.
“I knew they were going to come out and do something special.”
Both Canadian squads had new looks from the teams that swept gold on home turf in Toronto four years ago.
Just two women were back for a crack at a second gold while the men’s side had only four returnees.
Playing in her first international tournament, Hogan-Rochester’s three-try performance undoubtedly caught the eyes of national selectors.
“I just got on the team and there are a lot of girls that have been pushing and working towards that (Olympics) but that 12-person roster is definitely something I am interested in,” said Hogan-Rochester. “The Olympics are every athlete’s biggest dream.
“There’s still a lot of work to do, I am still developing.”
Situated between two towering favelas, the tournament’s sparkling, new venues are in stark contrast to the teeming slums surrounding the complex.
“It’s a little bit different but what a great backdrop,” said Williams.
“You look around and it is an eye opener for a lot of these young girls who haven’t really travelled and are constantly on their phones and Instagram, to kind of see how other countries live.”
(Editing by Ian Ransom)