Recently in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Ontario’s Blues came out to meet the New York Rhinos in a smashing school match. The perception was that the Canadian squad would be completely outmatched in the event and somehow that got turned around. The Ontario team is a young bunch of brass bucks with a lot of heart but few believed that they would have the necessary experience to take on the strength of the New York team in the Super Seven exhibitions event.
They started out fighting in the modified event. The match played out in quarters of twelve minutes each, a much shorter game than most and the Blues had their energy pumping and they truly thrived under that kind of physical pressure. Throughout it all, they held a major lead, ending the first quarter with a fourteen point lead over the Rhinos. Twelve minutes later by the time they tallied up the first half, Ontario had extended their lead to 43 to 19 and they were still moving like lightning.
As the second half began, New York got their act together and managed to push back a bit on the Canadians, grabbing another 24 points while the Blues inched forward only slightly making the match pretty even at that point. The final quarter was the decider, however, and the Ontario squad again amped up into high gear, ticking off another 31 points to bring the game final to 79 to 43 in their favour. Fans in attendance expressed their admiration with one player from the opposing team even stating that he wished he was one of their fans.
Ontario used a strategy to avoid a drop in speed and energy, subbing in new players at every dead ball while the New York team made the shift on a more timed basis, changing their lines every six minutes or so. The structure of the Super Seven means that coaches have to be more conscious of what’s happening on the field and knowing when to make decisions as the match plays out much differently than it does at 80 minutes. The subs are definitely a key component when playing a match structured in this way. Players can easily burn out with the quick action and pull them out before they open up a team weakness is a smart move.
The New York team concedes that they weren’t at their best and feels they should have worked the sides much harder. The Blues were pushing them up the middle and the youth and their size had a big impact on that play. Had the Rhinos gone wider, it might have made a difference.
The aim of the shorter match is to make the game more watchable and thus more marketable so it’s essentially a financial angle they are taking in an effort to stir up interest in creating a league focused on domestic sevens.
The New York Rhinos are made up of players chosen from a number of other teams that are spread throughout the east coast or the U.S. and they didn’t have much opportunity to get to know each other prior to the event. They had only trained on two occasions prior to the exhibition. In most games, there is much more time to gain composure and cohesion as a group and in this situation, they were all working a bit on the fly.