Natasha Watcham-Roy. File photo
By Mat LaBranche
The Southern Hemisphere continues to treat Natasha Watcham-Roy and her Canadian women’s rugby sevens team well, as they followed up their 2016 bronze medal in Rio with a World Rugby Women's Sevens Series stage championship in Sydney, Australia.
“We just kept building,” recounts the past University of Ottawa Gee-Gees captain from Gatineau. “We definitely had our ups and downs. We didn’t have the best team performance in the group stage against (Olympic silver-medallist) New Zealand (a 31-10 loss), but we knew after that that we had our biggest game and that it was quarter-finals that mattered, so we came out really strong there (26-5 win over Russia).
“After that, we just stuck to the process and took it one play at a time and I think that’s what helped us to stay calm and confident, and we ended up coming out with the win.”
The victory definitely came at an opportune time for Canada, as they were coming off a subpar 6th-place finish at the series opener back in December in Dubai.
“We didn’t perform like we wanted to (in Dubai),” indicates Watcham-Roy, who started all three round robin matches in Sydney and was substituted into each playoff match. “We knew we were better than what we put out, so we just wanted to show that in Sydney and that’s what we did.”
Canada downed Olympic champion and host Australia 12-7 in the Sydney semi-finals, then claimed their title with a narrow 21-17 win over USA, which was far from a walk in the park, Watcham-Roy signals.
“It was pretty back-and-forth. There wasn’t a clear advantage for either team,” recalls the 2015 Pan Am Games champion who’d claimed gold with a 55-7 thumping of the U.S. in Toronto. “The U.S. is such a good team because they’re so strong and physical. I think it was our ability to stay in the game and maintain possession, and our aerial skills, that really helped us to win it.”
The Sydney win was Canada’s third all-time Series title, though it still proves difficult to top last summer’s bronze medal win at the five-ring circus. Watcham-Roy says that was the kind of moment she’d envisioned ever since she first started the sport.
“It was it was an absolute dream come true,” smiles the 24-year-old who’s been with the national team in Langford, B.C. for just over 3 years. “It was always my goal to represent Canada, and to perform like we did on such a big stage is something words can’t describe.
“Every time I wear the jersey I’m filled with pride and just excited to perform and show Canada what we can do as a team and what I can do as well.”
Watcham-Roy takes equal pride in the impact that capturing the bronze medal had on the entire country.
“It was great for the sport of rugby,” underlines the uOttawa health sciences grad. “It really helped it to grow and people became more interested. The amount of people who watch and who want to play now is amazing.”