Island youth shine for Canada in opening day of Edmonton Sevens

In many ways it was a metaphor as Brennig Prevost of Victoria scored the try of the tournament Saturday in the Edmonton Sevens, a flipping full somersault across the line at Commonwealth Stadium, in Canada’s opening 21-12 victory over Hong Kong.

“It was the less painful route when landing on this field,” he said.

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The Glenlyon Norfolk School graduate is among nine newcomers as Canada plots it leap to the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“We realize we’re the next generation coming up but right now we’re just focusing on the immediate — these two tournaments [the HSBC World Series Sevens at B.C. Place last week, in which Canada placed sixth, and Edmonton this weekend],” he said.

Only three players from Canada’s quarter-finalist team from the Tokyo Olympics are on the roster for the Vancouver and Edmonton tournaments. The nine youth replacements on the national side — including Island players Prevost, Jack Carson from Oak Bay High, Victoria’s Ciaran Breen out of Shawnigan Lake School, Anton Ngongo from Claremont Secondary and Mill Bay’s Matt Percillier from Brentwood College — are getting their chance.

“The rate of speed — you have to be quick — and the physicality are the biggest things I’ve learned [in the jump up to the senior national team],” said Prevost.

The victory against Hong Kong was followed by a 47-0 Canadian blowout of Mexico as Ngongo and Breen scored two tries each while fellow-Islanders Percillier added four converts and Prevost two converts.

Then came a 49-0 blowout the other way as world power South Africa overwhelmed Canada.

“They are so good and very quick with the ball,” said ­Prevost, of the Blitzboks.

The cornerstones of the Canadian team the past decade — Victoria’s Connor Braid, UVic Vikes great Hirayama, Jones, Justin Douglas and Conor Trainor — retired following the Olympics in Tokyo.

“Those guys were class acts and I learned a lot by watching them and the things they did on and off the field,” said Prevost.

Canada will play Ireland in the quarter-finals today of the 12-team Edmonton tournament. The other quarter-final match-ups have South Africa against Hong Kong, Kenya playing Germany and the U.S. meeting Great Britain.

Meanwhile, Renee Gonzalez of the University of Victoria Vikes scored two tries as Canada opened the four-team women’s competition in Edmonton with a 26-26 draw against the U.S., followed by a 7-7 draw against Great Britain, before completing the day undefeated with a 40-12 victory over Mexico. The Canadians will play the U.S. in the semifinals today.

Women’s team player Kiri Ngawati of Westshore RFC continued a big year of firsts for the Victoria rugby family. Kiri, whose brother Quinn Ngawati earned his first men’s XVs caps for Canada this year, made her senior national team debut.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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