Welcome home, Cooper Coats.
The lone Nova Scotian on the national senior men’s rugby squad was named player of the match in Canada’s 15s 45-0 drubbing of Belgium in an international test match Saturday afternoon at the Wanderers Grounds.
“To be able to score, to be able play the whole game in front of my family and friends, and just hear them in the stands the whole time, is just absolutely incredible,” the 25-year-old Coats said from the historic pitch in the heart of Halifax, a stone’s throw from his alma mater, Citadel High School.
The faithful lauded their hometown hero when Coats dove over the goal-line for a try at the one-hour mark. A successful Peter Nelson conversion made the score 31-0.
Coats added another two points when he converted Michael Smith’s try in the 65th minute.
“Obviously scoring was a pretty incredible moment, don’t get me wrong,” Coats said in a Rugby Canada news release. “But I just think the defensive performance by us was outstanding and some of the guys really put their hands up. So, it’s really exciting moving into next week when we play Spain who are a pretty good team right now.”
Canada – which faces Spain in another test match next Sunday at TD Place in Ottawa – put in a clinical performance in Saturday’s resounding victory.
Despite overcoming wet conditions brought upon a heavy afternoon downpour, Canada managed to score just seven minutes into the contest. Jason Higgins, Lucas Rumball, Ben LeSage and Kainoa Lloyd also collected tries in the match.
But team captain Rumball and head coach Kingsley Jones each said there’s room for improvement for their side.
“I think Belgium is a good side – it is international rugby – and I think we struggled to find our feet with our patterns and our individual errors,” Rumball said. “It’s been a while since we’ve come together as a team so I think just getting that rust off and getting collectively better, I think we saw that come together towards the second half.”
“I felt we were the better team, for sure, but in the first half particularly we just made errors, unforced errors,” Jones added. “So, the boys will be a little bit disappointed with some of the execution but certainly you’ve got to respect Belgium. We came out in the second half, it took a little longer than we thought but we cracked them and we’ve got some good points on the scoreboard and also able to get guys on the field to win their first cap so that’s really a good day.”