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Canadian men down Kenya, move on in consolation play at Los Angeles Sevens

Canada Rugby Canada Rugby - Rugby Canada

CARSON, Calif. — New Zealand defeated Argentina 22-12 Sunday to win the Los Angeles Sevens, its second straight tournament title and fifth consecutive podium finish on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.

The All Blacks rebounded from a 14-7 loss to Samoa in pool play to defeat Britain 24-12 in the Cup quarterfinal and Australia 33-17 in the semifinal. There was little drama in the final with New Zealand leading 17-0 at the half.

Fiji edged Australia 21-19 to earn the bronze.

Canada's campaign ended in a 17-12 loss to Spain in the ninth-place semifinal. Josiah Morra and Elias Ergas scored tries in a losing cause as Canada finished tied for 11th.

The Canadians had defeated Kenya 12-5 earlier in consolation play with Morra scoring at the final whistle.

Canada remains 14th in the overall standings after six of 11 events this season.

“Tough way to finish," said interim Canada coach Sean White. "It’s a positive to see the things we’ve been working on over the past few weeks show up on the field. An example of that is our defensive effort versus Kenya.

"That being said, we are still working towards providing a consistent product over a three-game period that will allow us to challenge for a (Cup) quarterfinal. It’s building and we’re close, but as a group we’re not satisfied with just being close."

Next up is the March 3-5 Canada Sevens, for both men and women, in Vancouver.

"We know the fans in Vancouver are some of the best on the series," said White. "We can’t wait to match their energy and put together repeat performances that make them proud.”

After some resolute defence kept the Kenyans out early in the ninth-place quarterfinal, Jack Carson finished off a break by Morra for a 5-0 Canada lead at halftime.

Kenya tied it with two minutes remaining with Alvin Otieno finally breaking through a stubborn Canadian defence.

Kenya, led by former Canada coach Damian McGrath, had won four of the previous five meetings with the Canadian men. McGrath, an English native, has also coached Samoa and Germany.

It was a short turnaround for the Canadian men who finished play late on a weather-delayed Saturday schedule.

Canada finished last in a competitive Pool B after losing 12-0 to No. 2 South Africa and 22-0 to No. 9 Ireland before rallying to beat No. 11 Uruguay 26-10.

The Canada-Ireland game was interrupted by one of two lengthy delays due to the threat of lightning.

Down in the standings, the Canadian men are in danger of relegation.

The World Series is reducing the number of men’s core teams for the 2024 season from 16 to 12, to equal the number of women’s teams and align with the Olympic competition structure.

The 15th-ranked core team following the 10th round in Toulouse on May 12-14 will be relegated. The teams ranked 12th, 13th and 14th at the end of Toulouse will enter a four-team relegation playoff together with the Challenger Series 2023 winners at the 11th and final round of the Series in London on May 20-21.

The relegation playoff will be a round-robin format with the top two teams meeting in the final. The winner becomes the 12th core team on the 2024 Series, while the other three teams will enter their respective Regional Sevens Championships in order to qualify for the 2024 World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series.

The top four men’s and women’s teams at the end of the season will qualify automatically for the 2024 Paris Olympics. After L.A., the New Zealand men top the table, ahead of Argentina, South Africa and Fiji.

The Canadian women are currently 10th in the standings.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2023.