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Canada women finish 6th at Rugby World Cup Sevens after lopsided loss to Fiji

Canadians finished the match with zero points
Ilona Maher of USA is tackled by Sharni Williams of Australia in a semi final match during the Rugby World Cup 7’s championship held in Cape Town, South Africa, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Halden Krog

The Canadian women ran into a buzz saw in Fiji at the Rugby World Cup Sevens on Sunday, losing 53-0 to finish sixth in the 16-team field.

Fifth-seeded Canada trailed 34-0 at the half as No. 6 Fiji, claiming one restart after another, ran in six of its nine tries before the break.

Fiji retained the opening kickoff and pulled into a 10-0 lead on tries by Reapi Ulunisau and Alowesi Nakoci in the first two minutes. The Fijians breached the Canadian defence again as Ana Maria Naimasi fended off Florence Symonds to extend the lead to 15-0 after four minutes.

The onslaught continued with Sesenielie Donu fending off Breanne Nicholas en route to the try-line. Fiji won the ball back at the restart and Ulunisau scored under the posts. The conversion made it 27-0 for Fiji.

It was more of the same at the next kickoff with Raijieli Daveua climbing high to corral the ball and then off-loading to Ulunisau to score under the posts and complete the first-half barrage.

Lavenia Cavuru, Adi Vani Buleka and Donu added tries in the second half to complete the rout for Fiji.

The teams had split their two previous meetings on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series with Fiji winning 28-26 in Dubai and Canada prevailing 26-19 in Langford, B.C.

Earlier Sunday, the 10th-seeded Canadian men finished 13th in the 24-team men’s field, reeling off 12 straight points to down No. 17 Chile for a 12-10 comeback win.

The Canadian women, runner-up to New Zealand at the 2013 tournament in Moscow, finished seventh four years ago in San Francisco. The Canadian men’s best showing was a fifth-place finish in 2001 in Argentina. They were 12th four years ago.

Olivia de Couvreur scored two tries with singles from Nicholas and Keyara Wardley as Canada, scoring 22 straight points after conceding a fourth-minute try to Abbie Brown, downed No. 8 England 22-7 to open play Sunday.

De Couvreur was originally a travelling reserve but moved into the playing squad after an injury to veteran Bianca Farella, who ranks second on the World Series all-time try-scoring list with 157.

The 22-year-old de Couvreur was one of seven players on Canada’s 13-woman roster aged 22 or under.

The Canadian women fell out of championship contention in a 10-7 loss to the fourth-seeded Americans in quarterfinal play Saturday.

The U.S. women moved on to face top-seeded Australia while No. 2 New Zealand took on No. 3 France in the championship semifinals later Sunday at Cape Town Stadium.

In the men’s semifinals, No. 7 Ireland faced No. 5 New Zealand while No. 2 Australia took on No. 3 Fiji.

Against Chile, the Canadian men found themselves playing defence for almost the entire first half and trailed 10-0 at the break.

Canada got the ball back at the opening kickoff but gave it to Chile with a handling error and the South Americans attacked the Canadian end. After a penalty resulted in a scrum near the Canadian goal line, Julio Blanc touched down in the corner for a 5-0.

Thomas Isherwood made a try-saving tackle to deny a subsequent Chile attack. And Canada’s Lockie Kratz was sent to the sin bin late in the half for an illegal tackle. The Condors took advantage of the extra manpower with Blanc scoring.

Josiah Morra put Canada on the board early in the second half, outpacing the defence down the right flank to cut the lead to 10-5. Kratz sliced through the Chilean defence after a penalty and Brock Webster’s conversion put Canada ahead 12-10 with two and a half minutes remaining. Kratz was injured on the play and had to be helped off.

After falling to Uruguay on Saturday, the Canadian men survived a 19-point Welsh comeback in the second half to win 33-19 in men’s consolation play later in the day.

Canada opened men’s play Friday with a 31-7 win over No. 23 Zimbabwe but fell out of the championship side of the draw after a 19-12 loss to No. 7 France in round-of-16 play.

Both the men’s and 16-side women’s event feature a “winner take all” format, meaning a single loss takes you out of championship contention.

Both Canadian programs have gone through a lot of changes with a spate of retirements after the Tokyo Olympics where the men finished eighth and the women ninth.

South Africa marks the eighth edition of the men’s World Cup Sevens and the fourth for the women. Canada has qualified for every one of those.

New Zealand won the last two editions of both the men’s and women’s World Cup Sevens.

The Canadian Press

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