The inaugural Pan American Games rugby competition at the Tlaquepaque Stadium, Guadalajara, was deemed an instant success.
After 12 grueling, action-packed matches under the heavy Mexican sun, every one of the eight competing teams made rugby history as Sevens was first played in a multi-sport event in the Americas.
“Rugby being played in the Pan American Games is superb for everybody involved and for the future of the game in the whole continent,” said a delighted IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset. “The level of support was very positive to see and we are playing in a rugby field that will be one of the legacies for Mexican Rugby.”
Canada proved the team to beat after a solid opening day with three victories from their three matches. With eight players that were in Rugby World Cup 2011 a month ago, their physicality was too strong for their Pool Aopponents.
Against a Brazilian team that got better during the day, the Canadians scored seven unanswered tries to win 45-0 before beating Chile 35-7.
The big pool match was against neighbours USA however and a 29-21 victory. “It is always an important game for us, but with the added incentive that they are a core team at the HSBC Sevens World Series, it is important for us to show we can beat them,” said Nathan Hirayama, at 23 a veteran of the Canadian.
USA found the opening day tough – they had to work hard for their opening 14-7 win against Chile and then drew with Brazil 19-19, coming back from a half time 12-5 deficit and were not able to close the match down.
Brazil, who earlier in the year shocked the rugby world by beating Argentina in the South American Sevens, recovered from the heavy early loss to draw with the USA with the last move of the game.
From a tap penalty, Felipe Silva ran in an angle to wrong-foot the defence to score close to the posts. Lucas ‘Tank’ Duque scored the goal to draw the game. They then went on to defeat Chile 14-7, showing maturity to control a hard opponent.
Argentina top Pool B
In Pool B Argentina showed signs of an improved team in winning its three games despite an early scare against Mexico.
The home team, basking in the excitement of playing in the newest of rugby venues in their country, drew first blood when Pascal Nadaud scored in the second minute. The almost capacity crowd erupted in celebration; despite not being to sustain the lead against a Nicolás Bruzzone-led team that won 26-5, the Mexican display was heartening.
The Argentines went on to beat Guyana 40-0 in a six-try display and worked hard against bitter rivals and neighbours Uruguay.
“This is a process and we are getting better with each game,” said hooker Santiago Bottini. “We are here to win the Gold Medal and were going step by step. Whoever we play will be hard.”
The Uruguayans, with a team that included a few “veterans” of IRB age grade tournaments, beat Mexico and Guyana by similar scores – 20-0 and 22-0. They failed against Argentina but still took a lot of positives from their 10-26 loss.
Mexico had their moment during the opening day’s matches, being a headache for Argentina and Uruguay. Against Guyana, the qualifier from the NACRA regional sevens and a must win game, they were unable to control their anxiety and lost by the narrow margin of 12-5.
Sunday will open with quarter-finals and will then move on to medal matches.