IT took more than seven years of effort as well as a complete change of sport but North Vancouver's Jason Marshall finally got to experience winning at Burnaby's Swangard Stadium.
Marshall suited up with the national senior men's rugby team Saturday in an international friendly against Georgia and helped Team Canada to a 31-12 victory.
Before joining the national rugby team Marshall was a multi-sport athlete who parlayed a strong career in rugby and football at Carson Graham into a spot as a quarterback on the team at Simon Fraser University. Swangard stadium was their home field back in those days but Marshall and the Clan didn't form many fond memories of the place - his tenure with the team coincided with an excruciating 25-game losing streak that spanned parts of four seasons. Through it all Marshal never once tasted victory on the Swangard soil.
After finishing at SFU Marshall tried to catch on in the CFL with the Edmonton Eskimos but was cut, paving the way for his return to the rugby pitch. It didn't take long for him to catch the attention of the national team after he rejoined the Capilano Rugby Club and by the time the 2011 Rugby World Cup rolled around he was a fixture in the starting lineup. Saturday was his first elite-level game at Swangard since those tough SFU days.
"It's bittersweet I guess," Marshall said after Canada's victory in front of a packed grandstand full of red and white. "I never won a game here in football but I finally broke that streak today."
Playing the last of a threegame test series that began with a win over the United States and a loss to Italy, the Canadian came out firing against Georgia, building up a 20-0 lead in the early stages of the game and taking a 23-7 advantage into halftime.
The second half began with a bang for Canada as winger Sean Duke picked off a pass and sprinted nearly the entire length of the field to push the lead to 28-7. A converted penalty kick from Canadian fullback James Pritchard at the final whistle gave him 21 points on the day and sealed the 19-point victory. Georgia may not immediately bring to mind rugby domination but they've played in the last three Rugby World Cups and are ranked No. 15 in the world, just two spots behind Canada. Georgia's forwards had a size advantage but the Canadians, with Marshall starting at the tighthead prop spot, held their ground and then some.
"They're a physical team and we brought our physicality too - that really helped us with the win," said Marshall. "That Georgia team is a really physical team, they're big boys. It's one of those mental things, you've got to be prepared to feel the pain all game so for the most part that's what we were doing. I thought we represented pretty well for Canada."
Marshall may have even been a little too physical as he earned a yellow card near the end of the second half and watched the final 10 minutes from the sin bin.
"Me and the referee had a bit of a conflict," he said. "He's the one that makes the decisions and I came out on the short end of the stick on that one."
The dustup didn't dampen his day at all though as Marshall joined his teammates in saluting the fans following the final whistle on a day in which rain threatened but never arrived.
"We don't get many opportunities to play (in Canada) so to have one in Vancouver was pretty cool," said Marshall. The 27-year-old ruptured a bicep while playing for his pro team in France three months ago but worked hard at his rehab to ensure he was healthy for Canada's home series.
"I was kind of pushing to make it back for this tour," he said, adding that it was great to reunite with his Canadian teammates for the first time since the World Cup. Their next chance to tour will come in November.
"I'm looking forward to that one already," said Marshall. "I find that we build every tour that we go on, developing as a rugby nation."