Canadian women advance, men eliminated at Rugby World Cup Sevens

·3 min read
Canada's Breanne Nicholas (4) runs with the ball during her team's 24-5 win over China in the Round of 16 at the Rugby World Cup Sevens on Friday in Cape Town, South Africa. (Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Getty Images - image credit)
Canada's Breanne Nicholas (4) runs with the ball during her team's 24-5 win over China in the Round of 16 at the Rugby World Cup Sevens on Friday in Cape Town, South Africa. (Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Getty Images - image credit)

Only one Canadian team is left standing after the first day of play at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town, South Africa.

Canada's women routed China 24-5 to advance to the quarter-finals, while the men were eliminated in a 19-12 Round of 16 loss to France after beating Zimbabwe earlier in the day.

The women will face the U.S. on Saturday at 4:05 p.m. ET with a spot in the semifinals and the chance to play for a medal on the line. The men move into the seeding bracket, known as the Challenge Cup, where they'll face Uruguay on Saturday at 5:53 a.m. ET.

Live coverage of the entire tournament is available across CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem beginning Saturday at 2 a.m. ET and Sunday at 2:15 a.m. ET.

The fifth-seeded Canadian women surrendered a first-minute try to No. 12 China but never conceded again, ripping off 24 straight points thanks to four tries and two conversions.

Breanne Nicholas, Florence Symonds, Keyara Wardley and Krissy Scurfield were the scorers for Canada, while Olivia Apps and Nicholas each contributed a conversion.

"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 quarter-finals and I'm happy with how we showed up."

WATCH | Canada advances with win over China:

The Canadian women, runner-up to New Zealand at the 2013 event in Moscow, finished seventh four years ago. But there has been massive turnover in the program since last summer's Tokyo Olympics where the Canadians — bronze medallists at the 2016 Rio Games — finished ninth overall.

The women are coming off a fourth-place showing at the Commonwealth Games in July in Birmingham, England, losing 19-12 to New Zealand in the bronze-medal match.

The men, seeded 10th, crushed Zimbabwe 31-7 in similar fashion to the women, allowing the opening try before dominating the remainder of the game.

WATCH | Canadian men crush Zimbabwe:

But the script was flipped against No. 7 France. This time, it was Canada's Phil Berna opening the scoring to take a 5-0 lead before France scored the next 19 points consecutively.

A 12th-minute try and subsequent conversion from Brock Webster brought Canada back within seven, but that was as close as it would get.

WATCH | Canada's men eliminated by France:

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.

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.