Canada women recover to win first game at Japan Sevens

Spain tossed a big scare into the Langford-based Canadian national side, but the Canucks rallied to begin the Japan Sevens women’s rugby tournament in Kitakyushu with a win.

Canada was trailing 10-7 at the half and 17-14 with less than three minutes remaining before late tries by Britt Benn, after a well-constructed build-up, and Bianca Farella, off a steal, pulled out a 26-17 victory. Farella is second in World Series tries on the season with 19, behind Kiwi Michaela Blyde’s 20.

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The swift Charity Williams used one of her patented field-length runs for the most spectacular try of the game. Canada’s other try was scored by Kaili Lukan, while captain Ghislaine Landry kicked three conversions to push her season-lead in World Series points to 112.

Canada’s remaining Pool B games, against China and Australia, were being played after press time Friday night. The playoff round begins today.

Returning to the Canadian line-up from injury, for the first time since being part of Canada’s bronze-medal performance at the 2016 Rio Olympics, was veteran Karen Paquin of the Castaway Wanderers to give Canada an emotional uplift.

The Canadian team can take a big cleat step toward returning to Japan next year by doing well this weekend.

The Japan Sevens is the fourth of six 2018-19 World Series tournaments, out of which the top-four teams will qualify directly for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Canada went into Kitakyushu tied for third place with Australia behind the second-place United States and leading New Zealand. The aim for Canada is to be poised to clinch an Olympic berth in front of its home fans at the Canada Sevens, from May 11 to 12, at Westhills Stadium.

If Canada finishes out of the top four at season’s end, it would have to win the Americas and Caribbean regional Olympic qualifying tournament July 6-7 in George Town, Cayman Islands to get to Tokyo 2020.

Rust might have been a factor in Canada’s slow start in Kitakyushu, although every team could claim that as an excuse. The men play 10 World Series tournaments in a season, but the women have only six, and haven’t played since the Sydney Sevens on Feb. 1-3. The Canadian women spent the 21Ú2-month break training at Westhills Stadium.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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