Canadian women best Australia, meet New Zealand in rugby 7s final

There was drama, glory and heartbreak all in good measure for the Langford-based Canadian teams Saturday at the New Zealand Sevens rugby tournament in the North Island city of Hamilton.

Canada scored nine unanswered points to beat defending Olympic-champion Australia 28-19 in the women's semifinals. Canada met host New Zealand in the final, which was played past deadline Pacific Time late Saturday.

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The Canadian men went undefeated in pool play by beating Ireland 26-21 and Spain 21-14 and tying France 12-12 only to fail to advance to the semifinals by the narrowest of margins.

France needed to beat Ireland by nine points or more in the final game of that pool to get to the semifinals and did that at the death with a converted try on the last play of the game in a 17-7 win over Ireland to deny Canada a place in the semis.

Canada played the U.S. for fifth/sixth place in the wee hours this morning in Hamilton.

Both the Canadian men's and women's teams have qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, so this World Series season is a big dress rehearsal for that. It continues with the Sydney Sevens next weekend in Australia.

Former University of Victoria Vikes great Nathan Hirayama and Harry Jones of North Vancouver are co-captaining the Canadian men's squad in the back-to-back antipodean set. Island veterans Connor Braid and Mike Fuailefau, both of Victoria, and Pat Kay of Duncan are also on the Canadian roster along with Isaac Kaay of the UVic Vikes. Of note, Lucas Hammond is making his return from injury for the first time since 2018.

Meanwhile, by making the women’s final, the 2016 Rio Olympics bronze-medallist Canadian team is guaranteed to move up from its pre-New Zealand tournament fourth place in the season World Series standings.

Ghislaine Landry is again captaining Canada and surpassed the career 300th plateau in converts scored in the World Series, which is second all-time. Landry is already the all-time leading scorer in World Series history. Canadian veteran Bianca Farella on the weekend moved past the career 150 level in World Series tries scored.

Also on the Canadian roster are three players from Island clubs - Caroline Crossley and Karen Paquin of Castaway Wanderers and Elissa Alarie of Westshore RFC.

New Zealand was the fourth World Series women's tournament and third for the men.

The Canada Sevens stops on the World Series are March 7-8 for the men at B.C. Place in Vancouver and May 2-3 for the women at Westhills Stadium in Langford.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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