While most students were looking forward to the Easter holiday as a time to recharge, spend time with family, and hunt for chocolate eggs, 26 of our senior students were eagerly anticipating chasing an egg-shaped object of a different kind: a rugby ball! Departing campus at 4:00 am on Wednesday, April 13 our Highlanders rugby 7s team began what was a six-day tour that was jam packed full of sun, sand, tackles, and tries!
For the first time in the storied rugby history of our School, we entered two teams in the Tropical 7s tournament held in Tampa Bay, Florida. The tournament welcomed 140 teams from over North America all vying for bragging rights in one of 11 divisions! Playing at an expansive 12-field facility, our teams traded in the familiar rugby 15s that we are accustomed to playing for the fast paced, 7-a-side version of the game that made its Olympic debut in 2016. While our students had been training for the past number of weeks as part of our regular School Sport Nova Scotia Rugby 15s season, the totally new sport and extreme heat proved to be quite a challenge for both squads in the matches of the tournament with our boys losing to a team comprised of players from across Canada and the US while the girls lost to a mid-western United States team. After their initial setbacks, both teams quickly found their stride with the boys splitting their next two games with a victory over a team from Arizona and a tough loss to a southern US academy team. The girls team ended up dropping their second game of the tournament before storming back with two big victories against teams from Wisconsin and Iowa.
On the second day of the tournament, the boys lost a close game to a team from Ontario before storming back with excellent wins versus a side from Maui, Hawaii and another Arizona team. The girls also came out well on the second day with a tight victory over a team from Alaska before finishing the tournament with a well-earned victory over an academy team representing five states and two Canadian provinces. As one of the only non-academy teams in the entire tournament, both of our teams represented themselves exceptionally well. Although not on the medal podium in their respective divisions, the identical 4-2 records reflected the excellent work our players did in adapting to this new sport in such a novel climate!
While rugby was the focus, our students also had a chance to enjoy downtime at the pool, meet peers from all over the continent, and take in the cultural sights and sounds of the American south including a day trip to enjoy the sand and surf of beautiful Clearwater beach on our final day of the tour.