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Canadian rugby men and women face challenging final day at South Africa Sevens

CAPE TOWN — The Canadian women finished sixth and the men seventh after a challenging day Sunday at the South Africa Sevens.

Australia won the women's event for the second week in a row, defeating France 29-26 in the final at Cape Town Stadium. New Zealand finished third, defeating the U.S. 19-7.

The Australian women won despite having Maddison Levi sent off for a high tackle at the end of the first half.

Argentina, which was runner-up to South Africa last week in Dubai, beat Australia 45-12 to win the men's event. Fiji downed Ireland 14-7 to take third place.

Cape Town was the second stop of the rebranded HSBC SVNS, formerly known as the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.

The Canadian women made it to the Cup quarterfinals by virtue of being one of the two best third-place finishers. They were thumped 41-0 by New Zealand in the quarterfinal on Sunday before being edged by Fiji 19-17 in the fifth-place playoff.

New Zealand's Michaela Blyde became the second woman in sevens history to reach the 200-try mark with a score against Canada in the quarterfinal, joining fellow Black Fern Portia Woodman-Wickliffe.

Reapi Ulunisau scored with time running out as Fiji rallied to beat Canada, with captain Olivia Apps sent off for a high tackle. Krissy Scurfield scored two tries for Canada while Caroline Crossley added a single.

Canada's men, who finished last in Dubai, scored upset wins over defending World Series champion New Zealand and reigning Cape Town titleholder Samoa on Saturday to advance to the Cup quarterfinals. But they ran into a buzz saw in Argentina, losing 33-0 to the Pumas, before defeating France 33-17 in the seventh-place playoff.

Jack Carson and Lockie Kratz each scored two tries and Josiah Morra added a single for Canada, which led 19-5 at the half.

The injury-hit Canadian men had just 10 fit players for the France game.

Australia tops the women's standings after two events with 40 points followed by New Zealand and France (both 34 points) and Fiji and Canada (24). The Canadian women were fourth in Dubai.

Argentina leads the men (38 points), ahead of South Africa and Fiji (both on 30). The Canadian men are ninth (nine points).

The slimmed-down sevens circuit features seven regular-season events, each featuring men's and women's competition, plus a grand final with promotion and relegation at stake.

Vancouver is the fourth stop of the season, scheduled for Feb. 23-25 after Dubai, Cape Town and Perth, Australia. The teams then go to Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Singapore before wrapping up in Madrid from May 31 to June 2.

The Canadian women finished ninth overall last season with sixth place in both Vancouver and Hong Kong their best showing.

The men's field has been cut to 12 core teams from 16 to match the women's setup as well as the Olympic competition.

Canada retained its core team status in dramatic fashion, defeating Kenya 12-7 in the relegation playoff final in May in London thanks to a last-minute try by Alex Russell. The Canadian men were forced into the playoff after finishing 14th in the season standings

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 10, 2023

The Canadian Press