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Tough start at Twickenham for Canadian men's rugby team in London Sevens

The grounds were hallowed but the results rough for the Langford-based Canadian men’s rugby team Saturday at ­historic Twickenham in the HSBC ­London Sevens.
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Ireland's Jack Kelly, centre, fights off Canada's Anton Ngongo, left, and Elias Ergas, right, to score a try during HSBC Canada Sevens rugby action, in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, April 17, 2022. Canada had a rough day Saturday at the HSBC London Sevens, losing three straight including a 40-14 thumping at the hands of New Zealand. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The grounds were hallowed but the results rough for the Langford-based Canadian men’s rugby team Saturday at ­historic Twickenham in the HSBC ­London Sevens.

Canada drew three of the great rugby-playing nations in its group and lost 40-14 to New Zealand, 26-5 to Australia and 19-14 to France.

A try by Anton Ngongo of Victoria, a graduate of the ­Claremont Secondary Spartans, kept the scoreline close at the half against Australia at 12-5 before the Aussies blew the doors open in the second half. Canada also kept the game against France close at the half as tries by Elias Ergas and Alex Russell gave the Canucks a 14-7 lead before the French rallied to pull out the victory.

Canada, 14th in the HSBC World Series season standings, will conclude today on the consolation side of the tournament. The quarter-finalists are two-time defending Rio and Tokyo Olympics gold-medallists Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, England, Ireland, Samoa, Spain and South Africa.

The Canadian men are in the midst of a major rebuild with the retirement of its veteran foundational core, including Connor Braid of Victoria, former UVic Vikes great Nathan Hirayama and Harry Jones, following its quarter-final appearance in the Tokyo Olympics last summer. Jake Thiel and Phil Berna are the lone Tokyo Games holdovers dressed this weekend in the London Sevens. Among the youthful Canadian players performing at Twickenham are Ngongo, Brennig Prevost and Matthew Oworu of Victoria.

This is first tour on the bench for former Victoria and Canada playing star Sean White as the new assistant coach of the Canadian team.

Meanwhile, the Langford-based Canadian women’s team finished strongly with a sixth-place finish last week in the France Sevens in Toulouse to follow up its fifth-place showing at home this month in the Canada Sevens at Starlight Stadium. Toulouse closed the women’s 2022 HSBC World Series season with Canada placing seventh overall in the standings. That’s an improvement of two spots from its ninth place in the Tokyo Olympics.

Like the men, the women are undergoing a thorough rebuild and feature numerous young players, including University of Victoria Vikes Ella O’Regan, Renee Gonzalez and Krissy Scurfield with Fancy Bermudez out of Westshore RFC.

The Canadian men’s and women’s teams will conclude their seasons with the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, from July 28 to Aug. 8 and the 2022 Sevens World Cup in Cape Town, South Africa, from Sept. 9-11.