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Canadian men 1 loss away from relegation from elite rugby sevens circuit

The Canadian men were beaten 14-7 by the U.S. to finish 4th in Qualifier Pool A
Canada’s men’s rugby sevens team faces an uphill battle to avoid relegation from the HSBC SVNS circuit after finishing bottom of its group Saturday. (Courtesy of The Canadian Press)

Canada’s men’s rugby sevens team faces an uphill battle to avoid relegation from the HSBC SVNS circuit after finishing bottom of its group Saturday (June 1).

After losses to Uruguay and Germany on Friday, the Canadian men were beaten 14-7 by the U.S. on Saturday to finish fourth in Qualifier Pool A. That means they will play the Pool B winner Sunday with relegation from the 12-country elite rugby sevens series on the line.

Unbeaten Spain topped Pool B going into its preliminary-round finale against Samoa later Saturday.

Teams in the eight-team qualifier series cross over Sunday with A1 versus B4, 2A versus 3B, 3A versus 2B and 4A versus 1B. The winners of the four crossover matches earn core status for next season while the losers drop down to the second-tier Challenger Series.

The Canadian men have been a core team on the top sevens circuit since 2012-13. While Canada’s men fight for survival, the fifth-ranked Canadian women are going after a trophy in the eight-team championship bracket

Canada’s women held on to upset No. 1 New Zealand 26-17 Saturday with a game against Britain to come later in the day.

Charity Williams, Olivia Apps, Piper Logan and Keyara Wardley scored tries in a famous victory for Canada, which had lost 27 straight to the Black Ferns seven squad since 2016. The Canadians led 21-0 at the half which ended with New Zealand’s Jorja Miller in the sin-bin.

Canada built its lead to 26-0 in the second half before Stacey Waaka, with her 100th try on the circuit, Miller and Jazmin Felix-Hotham answered for New Zealand.

The Canadians opened with a 26-19 loss Friday to the U.S. in Championship Pool A.

The Canada men survived a four-team relegation playoff last year, defeating Kenya 12-7 in London in the final on a last-minute Alex Russell try to preserve its core status.

The 2023 relegation fight was a product of the sevens circuit reducing the number of men’s teams to 12 from 16 to align with the women’s competition and the Olympic field.

Promotion/relegation is now an annual feature with the bottom four teams from the slimmed-down 12-country HSBC SVNS and the top four teams from the second-tier Challenger Series facing off to decide four berths in next season’s elite division.

Having already topped his group, U.S. coach Mike Friday left several starters including veterans Perry Baker and Steve Tomasin on the bench with an eye to Sunday’s decider.

Maka Unufe opened the scoring for the U.S, slashing through the Canadian defence for a converted try and 7-0 lead with 90 seconds remaining in the first half under the sunshine at Civitas Metropolitano Stadium, home of the Atletico Madrid soccer club.

Josiah Morra, taking a nifty offload from Matt Percillier, crashed over from close range three minutes in to the second half to tie it at 7-7 with Cooper Coats’ conversion. The Americans, bringing some starters off the bench, answered quickly with Malacchi Esdale beating a defender for a 14-7 lead.

Canada had a dreadful start Friday, beaten 41-7 by Uruguay and 19-14 by Germany.

Against Uruguay, the Canadians lost Matt Oworu to a red card for a high tackle just 53 seconds into the match. And Kalin Sager was shown a yellow in the second half, reducing Canada to five men for two minutes.

Oworu was subsequently handed a three-match ban.

Canada appeared to have rallied for a 14-12 comeback win against Germany thanks to a Jack Carson try with just seconds remaining. But Germany replied with a converted try by Jakob Dipper with the clock in the red for a 19-14 win.

The U.S. defeat marked the 28th straight loss for the Canadians, whose last win was Dec. 10 in Cape Town — a 33-17 victory over France to finish seventh on the second stop of the HSBC SVNS campaign.

Canada placed last on the other six stops, compiling a dismal 3-32-0 over the seven events that preceded the season finale in Madrid. The Canadian men went winless in Dubai, Perth, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Singapore.

The bottom four teams — the ninth-place U.S., No. 10 Spain, No. 11 Samoa and No. 12 Canada — dropped into the relegation bracket with the top four teams from the Challenger Series — Uruguay, Kenya, Chile and Germany.

The top eight men’s and women’s sides, meanwhile, are competing in a “winner-take-all” grand final in Madrid, the final stop of the season.

Madrid marks the final tournament for the Canadian women before the Paris Olympics in July. After Madrid, the Canadian men focus on a last-ditch Olympic qualification tournament in Monaco in late June.

The Canadian Press

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