LONDON — Canada finished tied for seventh at the London Sevens on Sunday, losing 33-15 to New Zealand in the Plate semifinal at the final stop of the season on the nine-event HSBC Sevens World Series.
Harry Jones scored two tries for Canada, reaching the 50 career mark, in a losing cause at a festive Twickenham Stadium. Organizers had called for a galactic fancy dress theme and the crowd did no disappoint.
The United States beat Australia 45-22 in the Cup final of the tournament, officially known as the Marriott London Sevens.
Series leader Fiji assured itself of the World Series overall title when it defeated No 2 South Africa 19-7 in the Cup quarter-finals earlier in the day. New Zealand had won the crown the last four seasons.
The Fijians then fell 33-7 in the semifinals to Australia, led by former Canadian coach Geraint John. Fiji, which trailed 28-0 at the half, had two men sent to the sin-bin.
Still Fiji won four of nine events this season, playing some spectacular free-flowing rugby.
Fiji, South Africa, New Zealand and England all booked their ticket to the 2016 Olympics by finishing in the top four of the overall standings. England qualified Team Great Britain.
It was an encouraging end of the season for Canada, making its third trip to the quarter-finals in as many tournaments. Coach Liam Middleton’s team finished tied for seventh last week in Glasgow and was fourth at the previous tournament in Tokyo.
The Canadians jumped two places in the overall standings by virtue of its performance in London to finish ninth in a transitional year under Middleton, a Zimbabwe native who missed the first tournament because of immigration red tape. Canada was sixth overall last season.
One warning sign is the rise of the U.S., which ousted Canada 29-10 in the quarter-finals before thumping England 43-12 in the semifinals en route to the country’s first ever title on the Sevens World Series circuit. It was the Americans’ first victory over England in more than five years.
Canada and the U.S. are expected to meet again in June in a regional Olympic qualifying tournament.
The U.S. have now won four of five meetings with the Canadians this season. Canada scored the lone win last weekend in Glasgow.
Canada went 2-1-0 Saturday, defeating Samoa and Argentina before losing to Fiji, in reaching the Cup quarter-finals. But it was relegated to the consolation Plate competition after losing to the U.S. on Sunday.
Jones and Mike Fuailefau scored tries in a losing cause against the Americans.
The Kiwis, third in the overall standings, had been eliminated from the Cup competition in a 21-17 quarter-final loss to England.
Jones opened the scoring against New Zealand after a bruising run by Adam Zaruba. The Canadians pressed again but lost the ball five yards from the New Zealand line and 18-year-old Rieko Ioane raced the length of the field before passing to Sherwin Stowers for a converted try and a 7-5 New Zealand lead. Ioane scored himself in the corner for a 12-5 halftime lead.
Beaudine Waaka, set up by D.J. Forbes, crossed the line in the second half but flipped the ball to Stowers rather than touch down himself to give Stowers his 100th career try. A conversion made it a 19-5 New Zealand lead.
Stowers, completing his hat trick, and Scott Curry then scored to make it 33-15.
Zaruba scored a late consolation try, flying down the left wing. And the big man set up Jones to make the final score 33-15.
The victory was New Zealand’s 29th in 30 meetings between the two. Canada scored its only win against New Zealand in Tokyo last month, a 19-15 decision.
On Saturday, the Canadian women lost a heartbreaker to Australia in the final of their London Sevens competition. Leading 17-5 with four minutes left, Canada gave up three later tries to lose 20-17. Ellia Green scored the decisive try with no time remaining on the clock.
Canada is now 0-3 in tournament finals.
Karen Paquin and Ashley Steacy made the tournament Dream Team.
The Canadian Press