Canada finishes fifth in women's rugby sevens with pair of victories

The haunting sounds of the Haka again wafted over Westhills Stadium on Sunday evening as New Zealand defended its Canada Sevens women's rugby title with a comprehensive 46-0 victory over Australia in the final.

The rivals also met in the gold-medal finals of the 2016 Rio Olympics and 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, with Australia winning the first and New Zealand the latter.

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The Canada Sevens again proved a triumph off the pitch, as 6,070 fans passed through the turnstiles over two days in Langford.

"The amount of people who came out, and stayed to the end to watch despite Canada not being in the final, was amazing," said New Zealand captain Sarah Goss.

"I cannot say enough of a massive thank-you."

The Kiwis are on fire, having now won three events in a row - Commonwealth Games, Japan Sevens and Canada Sevens.

"This was one of the best finals ever. Any opportunity to put on the black jersey means so much, for your country and your family," said New Zealand legend and tournament MVP Portia Woodman.

The Langford-based Canadian side placed fifth after losing a heartbreaking 28-26 quarter-final at the buzzer to the U.S. on Sunday before rebounding with impressive 29-12 and 35-12 victories over Ireland and England, respectively. The latter gained a measure of revenge for Canada's bronze-medal game loss to Britain last month in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

But this Canada Sevens event went beyond just placing.

"It's about playing in front of the next generation of Canadian players," said Canada head coach John Tait of Mill Bay.

"The B.C. high school girls' sevens championships were also held here at Westhills this weekend [in-between the Canada Sevens games] and those girls should have been inspired by what they saw the national teams do out there on the same pitch." Belmont won gold, Shawnigan Lake School silver, Earl Marriott of Surrey bronze with Esquimalt fourth.

B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver, a former rugby player and now avid fan, was in attendance Sunday.

"This again shows how sport brings people together," he said.

Veteran Bianca Farella was the star Sunday for Canada, with three tries against Ireland and two against England to ignite the passionate home crowd.

"This [Westhills Stadium] is such an intimate environment that I can feel the fans cheering for me when I break loose," said Farella, a key member of Canada's bronze-medallist 2016 Rio Olympics team.

"Yet, also with the home crowd, came so much pressure. But every national team out there is going for gold. It often comes down to being a mental game."

University of Victoria Vikes player Pam Buisa made her World Series debut for Canada over the weekend and acquitted herself well.

"It was exciting to do this here with UVic coaches and alumni in attendance," said Buisa.

Sevens rugby is pretty basic she said: "Get the ball and run."

Canada lost 17-7 in last year's Canada Sevens final against New Zealand. Except for the last-second quarter-final loss Sunday to the eventual bronze-medallist U.S., the Canadians might have again been on the podium of their home World Series tournament.

"These are hard lessons. Sevens can be a cruel game," said Tait.

"At this level, there are no easy games."

The women's World Series concludes with the Paris Sevens on June 8-10, followed by the men's and women's World Cup tournaments July 20-22 at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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