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Canadian teams out of rugby sevens medal hunt

Both teams still hoping to secure spots in the 2024 Paris Olympics
Canada’s Josiah Morra, right, fights off Chile’s Dante Marchese to score a try during HSBC Canada Sevens rugby action, in Vancouver, on Saturday, March 4, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The Canadian men’s and women’s teams experienced a roller-coaster ride Saturday that left them out of the medal hunt at the HSBC Canada Sevens Tournament despite posting a couple impressive wins.

The women used a 31-7 win over Brazil to reach the quarterfinals then showed a determined effort in a 10-5 loss to New Zealand, one of the best teams in the world.

“It was a super gusty performance,” said Krissy Scurfield, a prop/wing from Canmore, Alta. “We put all we had out there.

“Our biggest takeaway is we’re building. That’s a huge confidence booster.”

The men, hoping to build on an upset victory over Australia Friday night, defeated Chile 35-7 in their first game Saturday but still failed to reach the medal round. They then lost 19-14 to Spain in the ninth-place quarterfinal.

“It’s not where we wanted to be,” said hooker Alex Russell. “That’s the brutal nature of sevens. You’re playing for that top eight and suddenly you’re in that bottom four.”

Keyara Wardley of Vulcan, Ata., scored Canada’s lone try in the game against New Zealand. The play came in the second half when New Zealand was down a player due to penalty.

The final score was vast improvement from the 50-5 beating New Zealand laid on Canada the last time the teams meet in December at the sevens tournament in Cape Town, South Africa.

New Zealand has won three of the four tournaments this season. The Black Ferns won their three previous games this weekend by a combined scored of 127-14.

The women finished with a 1-2 record in Pool C but moved on because of their point differential. The top two teams from the three women’s pools advance to the quarterfinals, along with the two best third-place teams.

The U.S. finished first in Pool C with a 3-0 record with Ireland second at 2-1.

Head coach Jack Hanratty was pleased with the way his team played.

“I think we upped our level but it will mean nothing unless we can keep it consistent and perform again tomorrow and make sure we climb up the ranking,” he said.

The women play Ireland in their first game Sunday. The best they can finish is fifth, which would be their best result of the season.

In the men’s game against Spain, Jack Carson of Victoria scored to give Canada an early lead, but the Spanish battled back with 19 straight points. Josiah Morra of Toronto closed the gap with a late try.

Lachlan Kratz of Victoria and Thomas Isherwood of Okotoks, Alta., kicked converts.

The Canadian men came into the tournament sitting 14th in the World Rugby Sevens Series standings and are fighting to avoid relegation.

The World Series is reducing the number of men’s core teams for the 2024 season from 16 to 12, to equal the number of women’s teams and align with the Olympic competition structure.

The men needed to reach the quarterfinals of the next four tournaments — while managing wins when playing the teams ahead of them — to gain enough points to climb into 11th place or better and avoid playing in a relegation playoff.

“Every point matters now,” said Russell. “It’s going to be a dogfight by the end of the season.”

After being drubbed 35-5 by Ireland in their opening match the men rebounded to upset Australia 27-12, setting up the crucial game against Chile.

Morra and Matthew Percillier of Vancouver scored two tries each in the win. Jake Thiel of Abbotsford, B.C., added a try while Kratz kicked four converts and Isherwood booted one.

Ireland, Australia and Canada all had 2-1 records in Pool D. Only the top two teams advanced and Canada missed the cut because of point differential.

Canada’s fate was sealed when Australia defeated Ireland 21-7 in the final men’s match.

Chloe Daniels, of Sutton, Ont., Bianca Farella of Montreal, Fancy Bermudez of Edmonton, and Piper Logan of Calgary all scored tries in the women’s the win over Brazil. Co-captain Oliva Apps added a try and kicked three converts.

Farella is playing in her 44th sevens tournament, tying her with Australia’s Sharni Williams for most on the all-time list.

Bermudez said the team spent the night regrouping after losing 17-12 to the U.S. and 28-7 to Ireland during Friday’s opening day of competition.

“We collected ourselves, watched film and got back into it today,” she said. “We came in with a different intensity.”

The stands at BC Place were filled with colourful and some very imaginative costumes. There were jelly fish with sparkling lights and pirates. A large flock of white sheep sat near a group of chefs. There were workmen in hard hats, people in fancy top hats, cowboy hats and hats with visors .

People danced to the music, chanted and waved flags from the different nations playing.,

The tournament has been expanded to include a full slate of 12 women’s teams competing at the same time as the men.

The Canadian women have 16 points and are ranked 10th after four stops on their tour.

The top four men’s and women’s teams at the end of the season will qualify automatically for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Jim Morris, The Canadian Press

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