Entering the Las Vegas Invitational Sevens tournament as the reigning bronze medallists, the Ontario Junior Blues have set high goals for themselves at this year’s competition. However, their road to the championship hit a rocky start on Friday, as the Ontarians were dealt a double dose of headaches early on; a very well-assembled British Columbia side, combined with the loss one of their key players to injury just minutes into their first match, was too much to overcome in their tournament opener.
Forced to overcome adversity, the Junior Blues were able to calm their nerves and secure two victories later on in the day. The lads from Ontario now sit with a 2-1 record, with one match remaining in tournament pool play.
British Columbia Elite Youth Sevens-1 24 v. 12 Ontario Jr. Blues
The opening two minutes of Ontario’s first match of the day served as the shakiest period of play by the Junior Blues on Day One of the Las Vegas Invitational Sevens.
British Columbia started the match incredibly strongly, scoring under the posts just seconds after opening kickoff. Bad turned to worse in a matter of moments for Ontario, as Junior Blues veteran and team leader Kyle Lagasca went down with a injury that would keep him out of the lineup for the rest of the day.
Facing an uphill battle against a tough British Columbia side without the likes of Lagasca and Andrew Coe, who was called up to the Canadian Maple Leafs last week, proved too much of a climb for the Junior Blues. By halftime, the score was 12-0, and although Brandon McLeod and Aidan O’Brien managed second-half tries, the latter of which was converted by Troy Matthews, Ontario finished the match doubled up, 24-12.
Ontario Jr. Blues 26 v. 19 Washington Loggers
Looking to rectify a slow start to the tournament, Ontario picked up the pace of play in their second match of the day.
The first half of the match was a see-saw battle, as first-half tries by Mitchell Richardson and Trenton Cooper, along with a Matthews conversion, were cancelled out by two tries and a conversion by the Loggers; the halftime score was 12-12.
With Washington going ahead 19-12 early in the second frame, Ontario required some late-match heroics from Richardson, who scored two tries in the last three minutes of the match to secure victory for the Junior Blues. Both tries were converted by Keaton Porter, earning Ontario a 26-19 win over the American side.
Upright Rugby Rogues 21 v. 26 Ontario Jr. Blues
Ontario’s third and final match of Day One pitted the Junior Blues against a couple of former teammates: two members of the New York Sevens Cup-winning Junior Blues team – Owen Brombal and Tyler Hergott – suited up for the Rogues in Las Vegas. The Rogues, a rugby academy based out of Oakville, ON, are a high performance developmental rugby program, and recruited the two 18-year-old Junior Blues veterans to serve as mentors for a team composed of young up-and-coming rugby players.
Ontario’s speedsters proved too much for the Rogues to handle in the first half; two tries by McLeod and one by Richardson, coupled with three Porter conversions, allowed the Junior Blues to jump out to a 21-7 lead at halftime.
Kieran Smerdon opened the scoring for the Junior Blues in the second half, and despite two late Rogues tries, the Oakville side could not make up the lost ground, as Ontario took the match 26-21.
After the final match of Day One, Junior Blues head coach Darrell Devine addressed the main storyline of the day: the loss of veteran Kyle Lagasca.
“Losing a player like Kyle just a couple minutes into the first match of the entire tournament is a huge, huge loss,” said Devine. “He’s the kind of player who can turn a game on its head, and is a true leader for this group of guys. He’s looked up to, both on and off the pitch, and we’re hoping for a quick recovery.”
“The entire team was gutted for Kyle, but after the first match of the day, the boys settled down, and started playing more to their calibre of play,” he added. “This tournament features an incredibly high level of play. They don’t call the division ‘elite’ for nothing. We know we will have to improve for tomorrow, and the team is committed to taking their play to the next level.”
The matches at the Las Vegas Invitational Sevens will not be live-streamed online, though the @RugbyOntario Twitter account will be live-tweeting every Ontario Junior Blues and Junior Storm match. You can follow the action here: https://twitter.com/RugbyOntario
For more information regarding the Las Vegas Invitational Sevens, please visit: http://www.usasevens.com/las-vegas/las-vegas-invitational/
Ontario U18 Jr. Blues 7s Pool Schedule for Las Vegas Invitational Sevens:
8:00am PST / 11:00am EST: British Columbia Elite Youth 7s - 1 24 v. 12 Ontario Jr. Blues (Jan. 24)
10:40am PST / 1:40pm EST: Ontario Jr. Blues 26 v. 19 Washington Loggers (Jan. 24)
3:20pm PST / 6:20pm EST: Upright Rugby Rogues 21 v. 26 Ontario Jr. Blues (Jan. 24)
8:00am PST / 11:00am EST: Ontario Jr. Blues v. High School All-Americans – 2 (Jan. 25)
The Junior Blues will play their second match of Day Two at some point in between 10:20am PST / 1:20pm EST and 11:40am PST / 2:40pm EST. If needed, a third match of Day Two will be played after 1:00pm PST / 4:00pm EST.
Ontario U18 Jr. Blues 7s Squad for New York Sevens:
Sayf Al-Omaishi (Markham Irish)
Jack Caylor (Toronto Nomads)
Jared Chen (Oakville Crusaders)
Trenton Cooper (Oshawa Vikings)
Kyle Lagasca (Toronto Buccaneers)
Troy Matthews (Markham Irish)
Peter Milazzo (Toronto Saracens)
Brandon McLeod (Cobourg Saxons)
Aidan O’Brien (Oakville Crusaders)
Keaton Porter (Barrie RFC)
Mitchell Richardson (Stoney Creek)
Kieran Smerdon (Mississauga Blues)
Head Coach – Darrell Devine
Manager – Cory Hector
Athletic Therapist – Lacey Scott
About Rugby Ontario:
Rugby Ontario is the provincial sports governing body responsible for the organization of rugby in Ontario. Our mission is to promote, govern, and develop rugby at all levels in a safe, affordable and enjoyable environment within the province of Ontario.
For more information, visit http://www.rugbyontario.com/
About Rugby Ontario’s Junior Provincial Sevens Program:
The Rugby Ontario junior provincial sevens program is designed to help develop the skills of young rugby players in the province of Ontario, with of goal of setting these athletes on the pathway to identification for Canadian national team representation.
For more information, please contact:
Office: 416 426-7049
For all the latest information follow us: