Canada's National Women's Sevens Rugby Team came within inches of landing a place in the IRB Challenge Cup Grand Final, at Twickenham Stadium, in London. Taking on the reigning Cup holders from England on their home ground, Canada's women put in their strongest performance of the tournament to date, matching the physicality of a bigger English team and showing their speed in the wide channels of the larger Twickenham field. Canada trailed by a score of 12 - 7 when, with twelve seconds left, forward Jennifer Kish sliced through the England defence for her second try of the match and to claim the score that brought her country even.
It was left to young Ashley Steacy, of Lethbridge, Alberta, to make a tough drop-goal conversion kick from a wide angle. A successful kick would have seen Canada through to the Grand Final and claim fitting revenge for a loss to England, earlier this year. Sadly, the kick sailed wide and the tens of thousands of England fans in attendance at Twickenham prepared themselves for a thrilling sudden-death decider.
Canada and England exchanged chances with both teams utilizing their benches, in an attempt to stave off exhaustion. Neither team seemed capable of scoring from distance, as lactic-acid began building in the legs of the tired runners. Then, a mad scramble near the Canadian end-goal resulted in a scrum to England, and the home team did not waste their chance.
Fullback Emily Scarratt bowled her way through Canadian tacklers and touched down under the posts, to break Canadian hearts and relegate Canada to compete for third place, later that day.
Canada Assistant Head Coach Sandro Fiorino had the following comments on the team's results.
"Sevens rugby takes place at such a frantic pace that officials are under just as much pressure as players. Decisions have to made in seconds in this game, and although there were some knife-edge decisions, we have to look at ourselves and our own performance.
We made some crucial handling errors and made some poor decisions at key moments. Overall, we played twenty-one minutes of Sevens, with both teams completely level. One team had to eventually score, and it unfortunately didn't go our way.
Fiorino is upbeat, however, about the state of the Canadian women's program. He pointed to the upcoming Amsterdam Sevens, next weekend, where Canada are the defending Champions, as an opportunity for the team to test themselves again.
"Results like these just tell us that the work our women are putting in is paying off. I think if you had asked us eighteen months ago if we thought we would consistently be in the semi-finals and finals of international tournaments, I'm not sure anyone would have predicted that. We have another opportunity next weekend at the Amsterdam Sevens and our goal remains the same, to win the tournament. The top twelve teams in the world will be there, so it should prove an excellent test."
Canada did have one last opportunity to show their skills this weekend, when they took on the reigning World Champions from Australia in the contest for third place. The Canadians trailed 7 - 0 at the half-way mark, before tries from Mandy Marchak, Ghislaine Landry and a winning last-second score from B.C.'s Kayla Moleschi sealed the win. Canada's women will be slightly disappointed not to have made the Grand Final, but ending their tournament with a win over the defending World Cup Champions was a healthy sign. The team moves on to the Amsterdam Sevens next weekend, confident that they are still among the very best in the world, and capable of beating anyone on their day.