Canadian women topple Ireland at Canada Sevens, men close tournament with loss

Fancy Bermudez scored a pair of tries as the Canadian women defeated Ireland 24-12 Sunday to put themselves in position for their best result this season at the HSBC Canada Sevens tournament.

The women can place fifth in the tournament with a win over Fiji. Their previous best was eighth in Cape Town, South Africa.

“It will give us some good momentum going into the last few stops,” said Bermudez, a back from Edmonton. “It will do a lot.”

The men, who staged an upset over Australia Friday but missed advancing to the quarterfinals due to a points differential, lost 31-14 to South Africa in their only game Sunday and finished in a tie for 15th place.

“It’s a bummer to not come away with points,” said captain Phil Berna.

The poor finish was a blow to a men’s team that came into the tournament sitting 14th in the World Rugby Sevens Series standings and fighting to avoid relegation

The women fell behind 7-0 against Ireland but responded with 24 straight points. The game turned when prop Olivia De Couvreur of Ottawa delivered a crunching hit early in the first half.

“That was a bit monument piece,” said Bermudez. “It really got our energy back up after having a couple unforced errors. We just took that and ran with it.”

Co-captain Olivia Apps of Lindsay, Ont., scored a try and kicked two converts. Keyara Wardley of Vulcan, Alta., also scored a try.

The Canadian women entered the tournament with 16 points and ranked 10th after four stops on their tour.

Fans at BC Place Stadium were decked out in elaborate and colourful costumes. There were furry onesies and bright wigs. Some pink pigs with floppy ears sat near a flock of bees. A group of abominable snowmen waved a Canadian flag.

There were sailors, pirates, construction workers, and a group in orange prison suits watched over by police in sunglasses.

People danced to the music and waved flags from the different nations playing.

Lachlan Kratz of Victoria scored a try and kicked two converts in the men’s loss to South Africa. Jake Thiel of Abbotsford, B.C., added a try.

Both teams had a roller-coaster ride during the tournament but the men probably deserved a better fate. The women took advantage of a smaller field and a points differential system that worked in their favour.

This year the tournament was expanded to include a full slate of 12 women’s teams competing at the same time as the 16 men’s teams.

The Canadian women lost their opening games 28-7 Ireland and 17-12 to the U.S, then rebounded to beat Brazil 31-7.

They finished with a 1-2 record in Pool C but moved on because of their point differential. The top two teams from the three women’s pools advanced to the quarterfinals, along with the two best third-place teams.

The women then showed a determined effort in a 10-5 loss to New Zealand, one of the best teams in the world.

The men looked terrible in a 35-5 loss to Ireland in their opening game then played one of their best games of the tournament to beat Australia 29-12. They beat Chile 35-7 Saturday morning.

Despite a 2-1 record, they failed to advance to the medal round. The top two teams of the four men’s pools moved on. The men’s point differential left them in third.

They lost 19-14 to Spain in the ninth-place quarterfinal.

Men’s interim coach Sean White saw positives in his team’s performance.

“I don’t think we’re happy but we can certainly be proud,” he said.

“Our highs are really high right now and our lows are quite low. We’ve just got to find that even keel. I think we’ve shown what we’re capable of, it’s just about that repeat performance.”

Berna said the team is like a jigsaw puzzle that hasn’t been put together yet.

“We believe we have all the parts,” said the Vancouver native. “We just have to put it together on a consistent basis.”

The sevens series is reducing the number of men’s core teams for the 2024 season from 16 to 12, to equal the number of women’s teams and align with the Olympic competition structure.

The men needed to reach the quarterfinals of the final four tournaments — while managing wins when playing teams ahead of them — to gain enough points to climb into 11th place or better and avoid playing in a relegation playoff.

“We don’t hide from the fact there’s relegation,” said White. “But by no means do we go in looking at how many points we need.

“We’re trying to put the best performance in for each game and see where we get to.”

The top four men’s and women’s teams at the end of the season will qualify automatically for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Jim Morris, The Canadian Press

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