Photo: Martin Seras Lima
It was a legendary tale, that if not true would
be hard to believe.
And in the starring role was Richmond’s own Nathan Hirayama.
The McRoberts Secondary School graduate earned Player of the Final honours after leading Canada to its first-ever HSBC World Rugby Seven Series championship Sunday at the Singapore Sevens, a 26-19 victory over the United States.
“I’m really happy, but it still hasn’t really kicked in yet,” Hirayama told the Richmond Sentinel, adding he is anxious to return to the practice pitch next Monday when Canada begins preparing for the next World Rugby Sevens Series events in Europe—May 13 and 14 in Paris and May 20 and 21 in London.
Though Canada was able to jump out to an early 19-0 lead against the United States, Hirayama said no one was surprised when the latter came back to tie the match before Lucas Hammond’s last-minute try won it for the Canadians.
“We always knew it was going to be a close game, especially with the U.S. being our geographic rival,” he said. “Sure we got up 19-0, but I guess we didn’t want to make it easy on ourselves. But they’re such a dangerous team. Fortunately we were able to refocus after they had gained the momentum.”
A fly-half, Hirayama also starred in an offensive role for Canada on Day 2 of the tournament Saturday. He engineered a hat trick of tries and added three conversions as Canada defeated the vaunted All Blacks of New Zealand 26-14 in the quarters and then helped his team down England 17-5 in the semis to reach a cup final for the second time.
Ironically, Hirayama wasn’t sure he’d be fit to play Saturday.
“I had a bit of injury scare to be honest, but our (medical team) did a great job,” he said.
Following his dad’s (longtime McRoberts’ teacher Garry Hirayama won 12 caps as a fly-half for Canada in the 1980s), Nathan Hirayama recently became the all-time points scorer for Canada in rugby sevens play by surpassing 1,000 points and the legendary Phil Mack. He was elated to have his parents in attendance in Singapore for Canada’s historic first championship.
“I’m so fortunate to have both my parents support me so much throughout my career,” he said. “They’re really special. I don’t know if they’ve missed game in my 11 seasons. They were both sitting up in the nosebleeds and I and my teammates gave both of them big hugs when they came down to greet us.”