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Uruguay hands Canada’s rugby 7s a nightmare in battle to avoid relegation

Germany makes it worse by handing Canada a 2nd loss with clock in the red
The Canadian men’s rugby sevens team is looking to stave off relegation from the HSBC SVNS circuit in the season finale this weekend at Civitas Metropolitano in Madrid, Spain. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-World Rugby-Mike Lee

Canada’s bid to avoid relegation from the HSBC SVNS circuit got off to a nightmarish start Friday in a 41-7 loss to Uruguay.

And it went from bad to worse for the Canadian men in their second game when, after Jack Carson gave Canada a 14-12 lead under the posts with just seconds remaining, Germany responded with a converted try by Jakob Dipper with the clock in the red for a 19-14 win.

The two losses mean Canada will face a tougher foe Sunday when relegation is on the line.

The Canadian men found themselves behind the 8-ball against Uruguay when Matt Owuru was shown a red card for a high tackle on Bautista Basso just 53 seconds into the match. There was more pain in the second half when Kalin Sager was shown a yellow, reducing Canada to five men for two minutes.

Uruguay took advantage of its superiority in numbers, running in five of its seven tries in the second half under the sunshine at Civitas Metropolitano Stadium, home of the Atletico Madrid soccer club.

Juan Gonzalez and Basso had two tries apiece while Diego Ardao, Mateo Vinals and Juan Manual Tafernaberry added singles for Uruguay, which led 12-7 at the half. Guillermo Lijtenstein kicked two conversions and Tafernaberry booted one.

Thomas Isherwood scored Canada’s lone try, on a marvellous solo run in the third minute. Cooper Coats added the conversion.

Coats scored Canada’s other try against Germany, which finished fourth in the second-tier HSBC Challenger Series.

It marked the 27th 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.

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

The Canadian men have been a core team on the top sevens circuit since 2012-13.

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

Canada is playing in Qualifier Pool A with Uruguay, Germany and the U.S. (which finished ninth in the World Series). The U.S. opened with a 40-19 win over Germany.

The other group has Chile, Kenya, No. 10 Spain and No. 11 Samoa.

Uruguay finished atop the Challenger Series, ahead of Kenya, Chile and Germany.

Canada completes pool play against the U.S. on Saturday. The teams will then 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. Should Canada lose that final test, it would drop down to the second-tier Challenger Series.

While Canada’s men fight for survival, the fifth-ranked Canadian women battle for silverware in the season finale.

The Canadian women join No. 1 New Zealand, No. 2 Australia, No. 3 France, No. 4 U.S. No. 7 Ireland and No. 8 Britain in competing for the season’s final prize.

Like the men, the Canadian women also took it on the chin Friday in a 26-19 loss to the U.S. The Americans led 21-0 before two late tries by Canada’s Fancy Bermudez and Keyara Wardley narrowed the gap.

The Canadian women complete Pool A Saturday against New Zealand and Britain.

There was cause for Canada’s women, however, with Carissa Norsten being nominated for the HSBC SVNS Women’s Rookie of the Year award along with Australia’s Kaitlin Shave and Spain’s Juana Stella.

The men’s grand final in Madrid features No. 1 Argentina, No. 2 Ireland, No. 3 New Zealand, No. 4 Australia, No. 5 Fiji, No. 6 France, No. 7 South Africa and No. 8 Britain.

The Canadian 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 status as a core team. Canada needed a late try from Brock Webster to post a dramatic 21-19 comeback win over Uruguay en route to the Kenya showdown.

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.

No. 9 Japan, No. 10 Brazil, No. 11 South Africa and No. 12 Spain are joined in the women’s relegation playoff in Madrid by China, Argentina, Belgium and Poland from the Challenger Series.

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.

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