Canada harness anger to brush aside Japan
Who says it's not healthy to dwell on misfortune? Canada, harbouring a glowing sense of injustice after a harsh refereeing decision in pool F cost them a potential Cup place, fed off that anger to scrap their way to their second consecutive Bowl title.
Crowd favourites Japan bore the brunt of Canada's frustration, going down 33-12 in a match in which they were never in contention.
Sean Duke starred with two tries, making it 17-0 and 24-5 either side of half-time. As he consumed some of the sponsor's ale from his prized silver tankard after the team's lap of honour, he admitted Canada were out to prove a point.
Their grievance stemmed from Saturday, when they looked set to drive over Australia's line after the hooter had sounded, only for the referee to blow for a bad feed at a scrum. Australia won 26-24 to condemn Canada to the Bowl.
'We definitely took out a bit of anger on the guys we played against - we thought we should have been in the Cup,' said the 22-year-old.
'What it came down to, at the end of the day, was the ref decided the game rather than the players. You don't call a feeding call after the hooter like that, I've never seen anything like it. It's not supposed to happen like that - the players should decide who wins.'
They did that yesterday, though it was never easy. First, France threatened an upset in the quarter-final, but Chauncey O'Toole and Ciaran Hearn - with captain Philip Mack, one of Canada's players of the tournament - helped to seal it 12-7.
In their semi against Wales, they were 17-5 down at the mid-point of the second half, before Hearn and substitute John Moonlight delivered a 24-17 win when it looked like gruelling efforts against Argentina and Australia had caught up with the amateur side.
The final was the only game where Canada didn't have to scrap and scrape for victory, O'Toole, Neil Meechan and Duke giving them a comfortable cushion before Duke and Moonlight quashed any hopes of a Japanese comeback.
'To come here and get five wins out of six - and the one loss was only by two points - is fantastic,' said delighted coach Geraint John. 'I thought our performances were really good, the way we played in the final, the way we moved the ball was high quality.
'We just want to be consistent. We got to the Bowl final in Vegas and lost; we won the Bowl here last year and we've done it again. But we also want to play what I call good rugby, and I think we did that today.
'Sean Duke ran well, so did Ciaran Hearn, and Phil Mack, who's just come back, is just a fantastic leader. He works so hard, he's a passionate Canadian and drives the team forward and forward and forward.
'But we had 12 players the whole weekend, and it was a huge effort, not just from all the players but the whole backroom staff.'
Japan twice came from behind to reach the final, scoring 19 points without reply to beat Scotland 19-14, and even more impressively to win 14-12 against a US team who looked in control when leading 12-0 at half-time. Clawing back three tries against Canada proved too much.
'We lost, but we enjoyed ourselves. We are very happy,' said coach Wataru Murata at the end of what, for obvious reasons, has been an emotional tournament. 'When we think about Japan, of course our heart is painful, but we are delighted to be here in Hong Kong. We have given some pride for Japan.'
Duke, a kinesiology student at the University of Victoria in Canada who 'parties' with the scorer of Mexico's first Hong Kong try, fellow UV student Christian Henning, admitted it 'doesn't get any better' than scoring two tries in the final. 'This first beer tastes so good,' he added, leaving little doubt it would not be the last.