Canadians overthrow Ireland at Canada Sevens, men close tournament with loss

Fancy Bermudez scored a pair of tries as the Canadians beat Ireland 24-12 on Sunday to put themselves in position for their best result this season at the HSBC Canada Sevens tournament.

The women can finish fifth in the tournament with a win over Fiji. Their previous record was eighth in Cape Town, South Africa.

“It will give us a good boost going into the final stops,” said Bermudez, an Edmonton fullback. “It will do a lot.”

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The men, who stunned Australia on Friday but did not reach the quarter-finals due to a points differential, lost 31-14 to South Africa in their only game on Sunday and finished at tied for 15th place.

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“It’s a shame not to come away with points,” said captain Phil Berna.

The poor finish was a blow for a men’s side that entered the tournament finishing 14th in the World Rugby Sevens Series standings and battled to avoid relegation.

The Women trailed Ireland 7-0 but responded with 24 straight points. The game turned when Ottawa prop Olivia De Couvreur hit a hit early in the first half.

“It was a bit of a monument,” Bermudez said. “It really boosted our energy after making a few unforced errors. We just took that and ran with it.

Co-captain Olivia Apps of Lindsay, Ont., scored a try and had two converts. Keyara Wardley of Vulcan, Alta., also scored a try.

The Canadians entered the tournament with 16 points and ranked 10th after four stops on their tour.

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Fans at BC Place Stadium were decked out in elaborate and colorful costumes. There were furry jumpsuits and shiny wigs. Pink pigs with floppy ears sat near a flock of bees. A group of abominable snowmen waved a Canadian flag.

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There were sailors, pirates, construction workers and a group in orange prison suits watched by police wearing sunglasses.

People danced to the music and waved the flags of the different nations playing.

Victoria’s Lachlan Kratz scored a try and had two converts in the men’s loss to South Africa. Jake Thiel of Abbotsford, BC, added a try.

Both teams had a rollercoaster ride during the tournament, but the men probably deserved a better fate. The women took advantage of a smaller field and a point differential system that worked in their favor.

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This year the tournament has been expanded to include a full roster of 12 women’s teams competing alongside the 16 men’s teams.

The Canadians lost their opening matches 28-7 to Ireland and 17-12 to the US, then bounced back to beat Brazil 31-7.

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They finished 1-2 in Pool C but moved on due to their point differential. The two best teams of the three women’s pools qualified for the quarter-finals, as well as the two best third teams.

The women then showed a determined effort in a 10-5 defeat against New Zealand, one of the best teams in the world.

The men looked terrible in a 35-5 loss to Ireland in their opener and then played one of their best games of the tournament to beat Australia 29-12. They beat Chile 35-7 on Saturday morning.

Despite a 2-1 record, they failed to qualify for the medal round. The top two teams from the four men’s pools have moved on. The men’s points differential left them third.

They lost 19-14 to Spain in the quarter-finals for ninth place.

Men’s interim coach Sean White saw positives in his team’s performance.

“I don’t think we are happy, but we can certainly be proud,” he said.

“Our highs are really high right now and our lows are pretty low. We just have to find that same keel. I think we’ve shown what we’re capable of, it’s just about this repeat performance.

Berna said the team is like a puzzle that hasn’t been put together yet.

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“We think we have all the pieces,” the Vancouver native said. “We just have to put it together on a cohesive basis.”

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The seven-man series reduces the number of primary men’s teams for the 2024 season from 16 to 12, to match the number of women’s teams and align with the Olympic competition structure.

The men needed to reach the quarter-finals of the last four tournaments, while managing wins when facing teams ahead of them, to earn enough points to climb to 11th place or better and avoid playing in a relegation playoff.

“We’re not hiding from the fact that there’s relegation,” White said. “But we are in no way trying to determine how many points we need.

“We try to put in the best performance for each game and see where we get to.”

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

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This report from The Canadian Press was first published on March 5, 2023.

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