CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Canada opened men's play at the Rugby World Cup Sevens with a 31-7 win over Zimbabwe on Friday but fell out of the championship side of the draw after a 19-12 loss to France in round-of-16 play.
The fifth-seeded Canadian women downed China 24-5 to keep progressing at Cape Town Stadium. They will face the fourth-seeded Americans in Saturday's Championship quarterfinal.
After conceding a China try in the first minute, the Canadian women responded with tries from co-captain Breanne Nicholas and Florence Symonds to lead 12-5 at the break. Keyara Wardley and Krissy Scurfield added second-half tries.
“I’m really proud of our performance,” said Nicholas. “We were a bit messy but we came out and did what we needed to do to get to the quarterfinals and I’m happy with how we showed up.”
Both the 24-team men's field and 16-side women's event feature a "winner take all" format, meaning a single loss takes you out of championship contention.
The Canadian men, seeded 10th at the tournament, have yet to beat No. 7 France this season. They will play No. 18 Uruguay in the consolation Challenge quarterfinals Saturday after the South Americans were blanked 35-0 by No. 2 Australia.
The men's Championship quarterfinals are No. 5 New Zealand versus No. 4 Argentina, No. 7 France versus No. 2 Australia, No. 11 Samoa versus No. 3 Fiji and No. 9 Ireland versus No. 1 South Africa.
Other women's Championship quarterfinals are No. 1 Australia versus No. 8 England, No. 2 New Zealand versus No. 7 Ireland and No. 3 France versus No 6 Fiji.
Canada captain Phil Berna opened the scoring against France, which pulled even on a try by Jean Pascal Barraque. Canadian tries by Thomas Isherwood and Jake Thiel were ruled out by the television match official before halftime.
Nelson Epee scored two second-half tries to give France the lead with Brock Webster pulling one back for Canada.
Alex Russell had two tries against Zimbabwe, which opened the scoring in the first minute with a Godfrey Magaramombe try. Anton Ngongo, Ciaran Breen and Thiel also scored tries for Canada.
“Credit to Zimbabwe, they came out absolutely firing and their energy straight from the tunnel heading out there kind of widened our eyes,” Ngongo said. “We bounced right back and then didn’t let the early try get us down. We stayed level-headed and kept the pressure on and kept rolling from there.”
The men's best showing at the Rugby World Cup Sevens was a fifth-place finish in 2001 in Argentina. They were 12th four years ago in San Francisco.
The Canadian women, runner-up to New Zealand at the 2013 event in Moscow, finished seventh four years ago.
Both programs have gone through a lot of changes with a spate of retirements after the Tokyo Olympics where the men finished eighth and the women ninth.
South Africa marks the eighth edition of the men's World Cup Sevens and the fourth for the women. Canada has qualified for every one of those.
New Zealand won the last two editions of both the men's and women's World Cup Sevens.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 9, 2022
The Canadian Press