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Canada opens Hong Kong Sevens with win over Portugal

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The Canadian Press
3/28/2014 5:39:40 PM
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HONG KONG -- John Moonlight scored a pair of tries as Canada defeated Portugal 35-7 Friday in its opening match at the Hong Kong Sevens rugby tournament.

The Canadian men improved their career record against Portugal to 15-9-0.

Canada, which is currently ninth in the series standings, is coming off three impressive performances in the U.S., New Zealand and Japan, where it qualified for the quarter-finals of the elite Cup competition each time.

Nanyak Dala, Conor Trainor and Sean White also scored tries Friday for Canada, which will face No. 8 Argentina and No. 4 England on Saturday.

Captain Nathan Hirayama, who missed the final day of action in Tokyo last time out due to injury, converted all five Canadian tries.

Pedro Bettencourt had the lone try for No. 14 Portugal.

Moonlight opened the scoring with a try just 39 seconds into the match. Hirayama then converted tries from Dala and Trainor to put Canada up 21-0 by the 7:20 mark of the first half.

Bettencourt got Portugal on the board late, cutting Canada's lead to 21-7 at the break.

Moonlight struck quickly to open the second half with a try 50 seconds in. That was all the scoring until White's try in extra time.

In other games, Fiji opened its title defence by blowing away Wales 42-7.

In a pool matchup of last year's finalists, Fiji ran in six tries to one to put a smile on the face of coach Ben Ryan.

"Let's not get carried away. We haven't qualified for anything as yet," Ryan said. "We have a far way to go before we can think of defending our title."

Fiji, the most successful side at the mecca of sevens rugby, is bidding for a third successive title to go along with hat tricks in 1990-92 and 1997-99. England was the last team to win three in a row, 10 years ago.

The Pacific Islanders, coming off victory in Tokyo last weekend, led the charge of all the big guns on the opening night.

World series leader South Africa defeated France 31-7, and New Zealand brushed aside Scotland 33-0. Of the top four seeds, England had the hardest time having to ward off a feisty challenge from Argentina, 19-12.

In qualifying for core team status in next season's series, Japan was the most impressive in romps over Uruguay and Trinidad and Tobago, thanks to wingers Yoshikazu Fujita and Kenki Fukuoka, who were released by 15s coach Eddie Jones.

Host Hong Kong, Zimbabwe, Italy and Russia also emerged unbeaten in the 12-team second-tier competition. The winner of that tournament will join the core teams in the first-tier series next year.

Also Friday, the Canadian women defeated France 24-0 to win their second consecutive Hong Kong Invitational Sevens title.

The event was a tuneup for the Women's Sevens World Series tournament next week in Guangzhou, China. Canada is currently third in the women's series with 48 points. Australia and New Zealand each have 56.

With files from The Associated Press

John Moonlight (Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
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