Canadian women earn silver at New Zealand Sevens

Unless you are from New Zealand, you never want to hear the Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black at a rugby venue. But black, not red, was indeed the primary jersey colour Sunday as the host Kiwis defeated Langford-based Canada 24-7 in the women’s championship game of the New Zealand Sevens tournament in the North Island city of Hamilton. Brittany Benn gave Canada a 7-0 lead before the Kiwis rolled for 24 consecutive points to relegate the Canucks to silver.

The All Blacks completed the sweep by also winning the men’s title at home. The Canadian men, like the women also based in Langford, went undefeated but still only came away with fifth place Down Under. The Canadian men beat Ireland 26-21 and Spain 21-14 and tied France 12-12 in pool play only to fail to advance to the semifinals by the narrowest of margins. The tournament format eliminated the quarter-final stage, which placed a far greater emphasis on pool play. Canada defeated the U.S. 28-7 on Sunday in the fifth-place game. Despite the placing, it was a hugely encouraging weekend as the Canadian men moved into ninth place on the overall World Series standings.

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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 this week 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, former UVic Vikes player Lucas Hammond is making his return from injury on Canada for the first time since 2018.

Meanwhile, by making the women’s final in New Zealand, the 2016 Rio Olympics bronze-medallist Canadian team moved to third 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.

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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