Canadian women's rugby 7s team defeats U.S. to secure 5th place at tournament in B.C.
World Cup-bound squad advanced to play-off with upset victory over Fiji
The Canadian women's rugby sevens team held on to secure a fifth-place finish at the World Rugby Sevens Series tournament in Langford, B.C., with a 12-7 win over the rival Americans on Sunday.
Canada advanced to the fifth-place play-off with a 26-19 upset victory over Olympic bronze medallists Fiji in their fifth-place semifinal, which followed a tough 38-0 loss to reigning Olympic champions New Zealand in the quarter-finals.
The eighth-ranked Canadians struck first against the U.S. as Florence Symonds continued her strong play with a try in the first half at Starlight Stadium. Canada added insurance when Keyara Wardley broke into the open field for another try in the final minute of the half.
Captain Olivia Apps converted the second try to put the World Cup-bound squad up 12-0 entering the second half.
The U.S. cut the lead down to five points with a try from Kristi Kirshe and convert by Alena Olsen with less than six minutes left, but Canada managed to lock down the win in front of the 2,758 rowdy home fans. It is Canada's best result so far this season in the World Rugby Sevens Series.
WATCH l Canada takes down U.S. to claim 5th place on home soil:
Canadian coach Jack Hanratty's message throughout the prestigious two-day, 12-team event was one of consistency and a chance for his youthful home side to gain experience against quality competition.
"We've just beaten two teams that are known among the world's best. One, you want to back it up, and to be able to back it up today is exceptional," a delighted Hanratty said of the back-to-back wins.
"That's the highest position that we've finished [this year]. To be top five in the world in a tournament that had all the top teams. There was nobody missing here.
World No. 1-ranked Australia defeated New Zealand 21-17 in the final to capture gold later on Sunday, while bronze went to Ireland after a 22-14 win over Tokyo silver medallists France.
Australia, who defeated Canada 28-5 on Saturday, also clinched the 2022 HSBC World Sevens Series title with one more stop remaining in France.
The Americans blanked Spain 17-0 in the other fifth-place semifinal.
Symonds and Krissy Scurfield, with her second try of the match, scored in the second half to lift Canada over Fiji. Those tries gave Canada 15 for the weekend, matching its series best for a tournament.
The Canadians held a 14-12 lead at halftime on tries from Wardley and Scurfield.
"Her athletic ability is incredible," Hanratty said of Scurfield, who was a late addition to the team. "She's always had that, but now she's a rugby player and the sky is the limit for her."
With Fiji trailing 14-7, Reapi Ulunisau closed the margin to two points with the first of her two tries.
Sesenieli Donu had the other try for No. 6 Fiji, while Breanne Nicholas converted two tries for Canada and Apps another.
The Canadians took it on the chin to start the day, literally, falling to the hard-hitting Kiwis.
New Zealand, which entered the weekend ranked 11th in the season standings and allowed only two tries on Saturday, scored 19 points in each half and put on a defensive clinic in a dominant display.
After New Zealand scored early against Canada, Portia Woodman extended the lead to 12-0 with 2:28 left in the first half, notching her 201st career try with teammate Sarah Hirini serving a penalty.
Hirini made it 19-0 before halftime.
Stacey Fluhler increased New Zealand's advantage to 24-0 in the opening two minutes of the second half, with Risi Pouri-Lane and Tenika Willison also adding tries.
"We had to have three phases of possession and we couldn't do it," Hanratty said after the loss to the Black Ferns. "We showed about four or five minutes of that, but if you get nine minutes wrong, five minutes isn't really worth much."
Canada, which went 2-1 in pool play on Saturday, earned a World Cup berth after going unbeaten at the Rugby Americas North Sevens Qualifiers.
The Canadian women will now prepare for the final stop on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Toulouse, France on May 20-22.
"Our goal is Paris 2024 [Olympic Games] and we're going to keep building until then," said Canadian veteran Bianca Farella. "It's a great experience for the younger athletes. I'm honoured to be playing with them and help bring up the younger generation of athletes in Canada."
They opened the Sevens Series with two eighth-place finishes in back-to-back tournaments in Dubai late in 2021. In the new year, Canada picked up a sixth, then seventh-place finish in two tournaments in Spain.
With files from The Canadian Press