Rugby-Sevens

Canadian rugby women are perfect but men stumble on Day 1

The Canadian women, the top-ranked team in the competition, blanked Colombia 55-0 before thumping Mexico 60-0. The Canadian men, ranked third in the field but a gold medal hopeful, battered Guyana 45-0.

Women walk away with 55-0, 60-0 victories

Canada's Karen Paquin, right, breaks away from Colombia's Cindy Solangie Delgado Buitrago to score her team's opening try during women's rugby sevens action in Toronto. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

The Canadian women were perfect but the men stumbled late Saturdayon the opening day of the Pan American Games rugby sevens competition.

The women won all three of their matches, outscoring the opposition 151-0. The men seemed destined to join them, winning their first two games before dropping a scrappy 21-7 decision to Argentina in the day's finale.

Had they defeated Argentina and won Pool B, the Canadian men could have avoided meeting the Americans —— who went 3-0-0 in winning Pool A — until the final. Now they can clash in the semifinal

"Gold medals are not won on Day 1," said Canadian men's coach Liam Middleton, doing his best not to look disappointed. "They are not won in the pools (stage), they're won in the knockouts which are (Sunday).

"Ultimately we were going to have to fight it out at some stage and we're happy to do that in the semifinal, quarter-final or final."

The Canadian men battered Guyana 45-0 and beat Brazil 26-14 before falling to Argentina.

Canada will play Chile (1-2-0) in the quarter-final, with the winner advancing to play either the U.S or Guyana. Given Guyana was outscored 117-5 in losing all three of its matches, the smart money is on the Americans moving on to the semis.

"It's not the end of us yet," said Canada's Phil Mack. "We've got [Sunday] to go."

Good news for Canada

The good news is Canada beat the Americans twice en route to the final at the 2011 Games in Guadalajara, where they defeated Argentina 26-14 to win the inaugural Pan American rugby sevens gold. And the U.S. team here is missing some of its starters, who are on duty with the 15-man national squad.

The U.S. Eagles are the top-ranked side in the eight-team men's competition, finishing sixth in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series this season, ahead of No. 8 Argentina, No. 9 Canada and No. 16 Brazil.

The Canadian women, the top-ranked team in the competition, blanked Colombia 55-0 before thumping Mexico 60-0 and Brazil 36-0.

The Canadian women play Argentina to open the Sunday program before facing the U.S. in a likely meaningless final pool game. Barring a miracle, the two North American rivals will face off for gold later in the day.

Canada finished second overall in the Women's Sevens Series this season with the U.S. fifth and Brazil 10th.

Ten of the 12 Canadian women scored tries on the day as coach John Tait substituted liberally.

Speedy Magali Harvey, making the most of lesser opposition, scored six tries with Kelly Russell contributing five.

"I was really pleased with the fact we were able to rotate, share the minutes and rest up a little but for (Sunday's) games because it will get a lot tougher," said Tait.

The Pan American field is one of haves and have-nots and the result reflected that. The cumulative winners versus losers score in the first 10 matches was 367-31.

The U.S. women outscored their opposition 120-14 Saturday.

Crowds sparse at BMO Field

The day was split into two sessions in terms of tickets, with the crowd at BMO Field — known as Exhibition Stadium during the Games — underwhelming in the morning despite brilliant sunshine. The top tiers of the East and West stands were closed and the fans were bunched in the middle section of the lower tiers.

The crowd grew somewhat in the afternoon but it was still a disappointing start in terms of attendance to what is the biggest rugby sevens event on Canadian soil. The players weren't complaining, saying those who were there were loud and proud.

"The fans were great," said Canada's Ashley Steacy. "It's really great to be able to play in front of a home crowd again."

The men were up for it too. Canadian captain John Moonlight jumped in the air each time he led his team out, as if he had just been released from solitary confinement and was seeing sunshine for the first time in an eternity.

Despite the sometimes lopsided scores, there was no shortage of players putting their body on the line. Brazil's Bruna Pamela Lotufo was stretchered off the field with her ankle pointing in an unnatural direction. A Colombian woman carried off any injured teammate as she left the field after her final game of the day.

Canada's Conor Trainor left with a bandaged head, after medical staff glued a split eyelid together mid-game.

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