GUADALAJARA, Mexico, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Two interception tries from Conor Trainor spurred Canada to a 26-24 upset victory over Argentina in the gold medal match in the inaugural rugby sevens tournament at the Pan-American Games on Sunday.
The two-point winning margin ultimately derived from Nathan Hirayama's fine conversion kick from the left touchline after Canada's first try but it was Trainor's successful forays into the Argentina backline that kept his team in the match.
"This time last year he was on the fringe of going to the World Cup and he's just come back from the World Cup (where he) scored two tries against New Zealand. Now he's got a gold medal here," Canada coach Geraint John said of Trainor after the medal ceremony.
"He's a very instinctive player ... Sometimes as a coach we tell them not to do it because it can put us out of our structure, but it worked," John added.
The curly-haired, 21-year-old Trainor said: "I'm sure the coaches were pretty unhappy while I was running but I'm sure their hearts lifted when they saw me catch the ball and go in."
Rugby, which has also been played at the Commonwealth Games, will return to the Olympic Games in the sevens format at Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
The United States, last winners of the Olympic gold medal in rugby in Paris in 1924, were third at the Pan-American Games after beating Uruguay 21-17 for the bronze medal.
In the gold medal final, favourites Argentina went ahead with a converted try under the posts by Gabriel Azcarate with John Moonlight touching down in the left corner in a Canadian breakaway and Hirayama converting to put the teams level at 7-7.
Francisco Cuneo crossed to give Argentina a 12-7 lead at the interval but Moonlight scored his second try soon after the restart and Trainor's first intercept gave Canada the lead for the first time.
Replacement Ramiro Moyano scored under the posts at the other end and Gonzalo Gutierrez converted to put Argentina level again at 19-19.
But Trainor, who scored his two tries against eventual champions New Zealand in a pool match at the World Cup, made another interception when Argentina lost possession in a tackle.
Hirayama's conversion gave them a seven-point cushion going into the final seconds.
Argentina kept the ball in play after the siren and replacement Joaquin Luccheti went over for their last, potentially match-saving try but Gutierrez failed to slot in the conversion from out on the left where Hirayama had been successful earlier.
"In the last couple of years we've been losing games we were in the other team with by two, three points, often that came down to a conversion so we've worked on it a bit," an elated Hirayama said.
Argentina's coach Nicolas Fernandez Lobbe, middle brother of Pumas Ignacio and Juan Martin, said his team had lost because of their own mistakes.
"We had two errors, two interceptions in moments when we had got on top. I think that affected us, but we played badly, I think we lost it," Fernandez Lobbe told Reuters.
Asked if Argentina's game was easy to read, he said: "That's how to play sevens, especially a final when there's a lot of fatigue, you have to focus more on the system.
"In fact, (Hirayama's first) conversion, which scraped over 'asking for permission', cost us the match."
By Rex Gowar