A credible run at the New Zealand Maori All Blacks, a start on the road to Rio 2016 and a marquee B.C. Premier fixture highlighted a busy weekend of rugby on the Island and abroad.
The Langford-based Canadian men's team had the scoreline as close as 25-19 late in the game before the Maori All Blacks scored a late try for a 32-19 victory Friday night at historic Iffley Road, Oxford.
"We were so close, and we have got to learn to be able to win these games against the better teams, because they [Maori] would beat most countries," Canada head coach Kieran Crowley of Mill Bay said in a statement.
"That is a pretty good Maori team. We know we can match them now and go with them," said Crowley, himself an All Black World Cup champion as a player.
Playing for the Canadian team in Oxford - and thus impacting Saturday's James Bay-UVic fixture at Wallace Field - were Phil Mack, Sean Duke and Nathan Hirayama of UVic and John Moonlight and Connor Braid of James Bay.
James Bay won the B.C. Premier contest 34-20 over the Vikes.
Meanwhile, the Canadian women's sevens - an early medal favourite for Rio 2016 as rugby sevens pre-pares to make its Summer Olympics debut - breaks its three-week Langford training camp today and heads to next weekend's Dubai Sevens feeling confident in retaining its world top-three ranking.
Named to the Canadian team for Dubai were Barbara Mervin of Saanich's Velox club, captain Jennifer Kish of Edmonton, Bianca Farella of Montreal, Magali Harvey and Karen Paquin of Quebec City, Ghislaine Landry of Toronto, Mandy Marchak of Winnipeg, Kayla Moleschi of Williams Lake, Cheryl Phillips of Scarborough, Ont., Kelly Russell of Bolton, Ont., Ashley Steacy of Lethbridge and Brittany Waters of Vancouver.
Jessica Dovanne of Velox was named to the secondary Maple Leafs team that will be playing in the Dubai "B" tournament that will run concurrently with the main event.
Canadian head coach John Tait said there were many difficult roster decisions.
"That's good for our program but tough for me," he said.
"We have more depth than other countries. We're a pretty strong group."
From synchronized swimming, mountain biking and triathlon to women's ice hockey and women's soccer, Canada has a reputation of getting off to fast starts in sports just recently introduced to the Olympics before other nations begin narrowing the gap.
Canada's high current world standing shows it's no different in women's rugby.
"We don't have just one style of play, like some of the other national sides, but we bring a variety in attack," Tait said.
Canada opens the Dubai Sevens running next Friday and Saturday with opening-round games against Russia, China and New Zealand.
Meanwhile, the UBCOB Ravens left no doubt with a 61-0 victory over Cowichan on Saturday in the B.C. Under-19 final at Jericho Park in Vancouver.
The most recent Island teams to win the B.C. U-19 title were Castaway Wanderers in 2008 and Cowichan in 2003 and 2004.
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