June 15th, 2024

Canada rugby 7s comeback falls just short in 19-17 semifinal loss to French women

By The Canadian Press on June 2, 2024.

MADRID – A Canada comeback fell just short in a 19-17 loss to France in women’s semifinal play Sunday at the HSBC SVNS 2024 Grand Final.

In the other semifinal, No. 2 Australia rallied with a converted try with the clock in the red to edge No. 1 New Zealand 21-19. Tia Hinds hit a difficult conversion to seal the win.

The Canadian men face Spain later Sunday, with relegation from the elite HSBC SVNS on stake at Civitas Metropolitano Stadium, home of the Atletico Madrid soccer team.

No. 5 France will face No. 1 Argentina in the men’s championship game. The Argentines, who won stops in Cape Town, Perth and Vancouver, posted a 21-14 win over No. 3 New Zealand, winners in Hong Kong and Singapore, in the other semifinal.

The Madrid event is the eighth and final stop of the HSBC SVNS season, previously known as the HSBC World Rugby Seven Series.

The top eight teams in the men’s and women’s standings after seven events competed in a winner-take-all competition in Madrid. The bottom four joined the top four teams from the second-tier Challenger Series to decide four spots in next year’s HSBC SVNS.

The Canadian men were forced into the relegation bracket after finishing 12th, having lost 25 matches straight prior to Madrid in a dismal 3-22-0 campaign.

After the fifth-place Canadian women opened with a 26-19 loss Friday to the U.S., they upset New Zealand 26-17 Saturday before edging Britain 22-17 in extra time to finish atop Championship Pool A.

Canada and New Zealand will meet again in Sunday’s bronze-medal game.

The Canadian women had lost 27 straight to the Black Ferns seven squad since a tournament in Clermont-Ferrand in 2016. Their only previous win over the Black Ferns came in the Cup semifinals in Sao Paulo that year.

Saturday’s win came two weeks after the Canadian women’s 15s team scored a first-ever victory over New Zealand, winning 22-19 to finish first in the Pacific Four Series. Canada had lost all 17 previous meetings with the Black Ferns 15s.

Olivia Apps played in both the Canadian sevens and 15s triumphs.

No. 3 France had won five of the six meetings this season with Canada, which was trying to make its first cup final since Sydney in 2022.

Séraphine Okemba opened the scoring for France, fighting through several Canadian tacklers for a converted try after the French retained the ball from the opening kickoff.

A try by Florence Symonds, racing in on the overlap, cut the margin to 7-5. But Okemba struck again after taking a nifty offload to make it 14-5. While a Lina Guerin try was negated for double movement thanks to a last-second Charity Williams tackle, a loose Canadian pass led to a Yolaine Yengo try and 19-5 French lead at the break.

A French turnover off a quick lineout led to a Keyara Wardley try early in the second half that made it 19-10. France was then reduced to six players for two minutes with Valentine Lothoz sent to the sin-bin for a high tackle.

Canada took advantage with Asia Hogan-Rochester breaking a tackle for a converted try that reduced the lead to 19-17 with two minutes remaining.

The Canadians mounted one last attack, starting from their own try-line before France managed to get the ball out of bounds with the clock some three minutes into the red.

The Canadian men finished bottom of Qualifier Pool A after losses to Uruguay (41-7) Germany (19-14) and the U.S. (14-7). That set up the relegation showdown with unbeaten Spain, which topped Qualifier Pool B.

The Canada men survived a four-team relegation playoff last year, defeating Kenya 12-7 in London in the final on a last-minute Alex Russell try to preserve its core status.

The 2023 relegation fight was a product of the sevens circuit reducing the number of men’s teams to 12 from 16 to align with the women’s competition and the Olympic field.

Promotion/relegation is now an annual feature.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2024

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