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Winning isn’t everything – or, more to the point, winning can be measured in different ways.

The Mexico national 7s team lost all three pool play matches Saturday at the Pan-Am Games, but there was still plenty to mile about.

There was the crowd at Tlaquepaque Stadium, cheering lustily for Mexico all day, wearing Mexico shirts (and Serpientes hair adornments) and waiting to meet their heroes after the final game. There was the fact Mexico got to host the first Olympic-style rugby event in the Western Hemisphere. There was the fact that Mexico might have lost their games, but they were close.

“Having this crowd here is hard to describe, it was a tremendous feeling,” said Mexico captain Jorge Bermudez. “We all felt a lot of pride playing here and hosting the tournament. And to have the fans support us like this is incredible.”

Mexico got a huge cheer early on when they scored first in their match with heavily-favored Argentina.

“We talked about wanting to score first and seeing where things went from there,” said Bermudez. “Yes we lost that game, but if you saw where we were a few years ago – losing by 50, 60 points, you’d see we’ve come far. Now we are competitive. We wanted to score that last try [which would have tied their game against Guyana] and we tried. Everybody put so much heart into how we play. It didn’t happen, but we know we’ve improved.”

Mexico is soccer mad. Soccer dominates the sporting landscape well ahead of any other sport. And in that sense, it means every other sport is a fringe sport, and can survive in that arena. Rugby is certainly growing, and the 7s Serpientes is largely home-grown, where a few years ago it drew heavily from Mexican-Americans living and playing in the USA.

Now they have their own rugby stadium, and their fans got to see their team play in a major international event.

“It’s a great moment for us,” said Bermudez.