Men upset Australia to stay alive but women in tough at Canada Sevens tournament

VANCOUVER — Matthew Percillier scored a pair of tries as the Canadian men upset Australia 27-12 to keep their championship hopes alive, but the Canadian women have their backs against the wall after losing their opening two matches Friday at the HSBC Canada Sevens tournament at BC Place Stadium.

Alex Russell, of Montreal, and Kalin Sager of Trent Lakes, Ont., also scored tries for the men who had lost their two previous games against Australia this season by a combined score of 55-14. Thomas Isherwood of Okotoks, Alta., added a try and two converts.

The women lost 17-12 to the United States in the afternoon after dropping a 28-7 decision to Ireland in the morning.

After being trounced 35-5 by Ireland in their opening match the men took their frustrations out on Australia before a loud, hometown crowd in the final game of the day.

“The first game really got us down,” said Percillier, who was born in Victoria and now attends the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. “I’m incredibly proud of the boys. We really put our foot on their throat.

“We had the momentum throughout the entire game, which is commendable.”

A win Saturday against Chile would move Canada into the quarterfinals.

“The job is half done,” said interim coach Sean White. “I hope it’s the beginning of something special but it all depends on how we respond tomorrow.”

The women got tries from Bianca Farella of Montreal, and Alysha Corrigan of Charlottetown, P.E.I., against the U.S. Chloe Daniels of Sutton, Ont., added a convert.

“When ever you play the U.S. it’s a battle,” said Farella. “It was a really tight game. It could have been anyone’s game.”

The women trailed 5-0 at halftime. Canada was strong defensively but managed to cross centre field only once.

Farella scored on a pretty cutback early in the second half to give Canada a 7-5 lead. The Americans countered with two tries in a minute.

Farella is playing in her 44th sevens tournament, tying her with Australia’s Sharni Williams for most on the all-time list.

“It’s a huge milestone for me,” she said. “It’s cool to be so far along in my career and still making milestones.”

The Canadian women (0-2) need a win Saturday against Brazil (0-2) to keep alive their hopes of advancing to the quarterfinals. Ireland and the U.S. lead Pool C at 2-0.

The top two teams from the three pools advance, along with the two best third-place teams.

The top two teams from the four men’s pools advance to the quarterfinals.

The men came into the tournament sitting 14th in the overall World Rugby Sevens Series standings and are fighting to avoid relegation.

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

The men controlled the ball early against Ireland but couldn’t advance up the field. Ireland built a 21-0 halftime lead by scoring three tires in under four minutes.

Sager scored Canada’s lone try in the second half.

“We had trouble holding onto the possession,” said Sager, who is playing in his first year on the World Rugby Sevens Series. “We didn’t quite get it there.

“They got a couple of good steals on us. Hopefully we start the next one with as much energy as we finished.”

The score was a slight improvement as the men lost 22-0 to Ireland at last weekend’s Los Angeles Sevens.

Keyara Wardley of Vulcan, Alta., scored the only Canadian try in the final minute during the women’s opening loss to Ireland.

Head coach Jack Hanratty said some early mistakes put his team on its backfoot.

“It’s obviously fine margins but if you don’t take ownership of every possession you’ll be in for a long tournament,” he said.

The early games were played before screaming school children invited for the opening day of tournament, which ends Sunday. By the afternoon there were fans in costumes ranging from a group of white snow monsters, sailors, plenty of loud flowered shirts and a few bananas.

The tournament has been expanded to include a full slate of 12 women’s teams competing at the same time as the men.

The World 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 Canadian women have 16 points and are ranked 10th after four stops on their tour.

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

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2023.

Jim Morris, The Canadian Press