Feature photo: Martin Seras Lima/World Rugby
Canada followed up its Olympic qualification in women’s sevens rugby on Friday with a cup win Saturday at the Amsterdam Sevens.
The 20-17 win over powerful Australia is the first Canadian tournament win in the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series, an annual competition with its final stop of the season in Netherlands this weekend. It’s also redemption for Canada, which finished second to Australia last weekend at London Sevens.
Canada, with 96 points, finished second overall in the season to New Zealand, 12 points behind the Kiwis and just two ahead of Australia thanks to Saturday’s triumph.
It has been a couple of days that will be etched in Canadian sport history books. The Olympic qualification was earned on Friday as part of a perfect round robin outing for the Rugby Canada team. That was followed up on Saturday with the first-ever Sevens Series cup win for the Canadians, finishing with a perfect 6-0 record in Amsterday.
A hard-hitting first half saw Canada open the scoring with captain Jen Kish drawing in two tacklers before finding Karen Paquin up the right flank for the score. Up 5-0, Canada recovered the kickoff but couldn’t capitalize and Sharni Williams evened the contest and Australia went ahead with a conversion 7-5. Undeterred, Canada found space with two great runs, first from Paquin on the right, then Magali Harvey on the left finished it off with Canada’s second try for a 10-7 lead at intermission.
Australia’s Emma Tonegato got her team back up front in the second half 12-7 with a determined try leaving multiple Canadians in her wake. But Canada quickly responded again, with strong teamwork to retain possession before freeing Paquin for another run for her second try for a 15-12 lead. The back-and-forth continued with Tonegato restoring Australia’s lead 17-15. It was then Ghislaine Landry – the overall Sevens Series leading scorer – who would send Canada back on top for good in the last minute of the match with a break from her own half. Canada then recovered the kick and Kish booted it out with time expired to ensure a 20-17 victory.
“We played like a family. Australia are a tough team but we capitailsed on their mistakes. This is a phenomenal feeling,” Kish said postgame.
Head coach John Tait echoed his team captain, telling the live interviewer on the pitch “I’m pretty emotional. I am so proud of the girls they have been playing some great rugby all season. When Landry got the ball I was jumping up and down screaming to go down the touchline and score.”
Canada’s route to the final on Saturday began with a 33-0 quarterfinal victory over France. That ended French hopes of qualifying for the Olympics through the Sevens Series. Then Canada beat another Olympic hopeful, the United States, 19-14 in the semifinal to set up the final.
England beat USA in the third place match 15-14, joining New Zealand, Australia and Canada as the first teams to qualify for the inaugural Olympic women’s rugby tournament at Rio 2016. England will be playing as Team Great Britain in Rio. Nations like France, USA and others will look for alternate routes to the Olympic women’s tournament.