New Zealand defeated Argentina 19-17 Sunday to win the HSBC Singapore Sevens and become the first men’s team to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The news was not so good for the Canadian men, who finished 14th and face relegation with two events remaining in Toulouse, France, and London.
The top four teams in the standings at the end of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series automatically qualify for the Olympics. After Singapore, the All Blacks have a 24-point lead atop the table and cannot drop out of the top four.
“To qualify for Paris means everything to us,” said New Zealand coach Clark Laidlaw. “The first thing this year is to qualify for the Olympics. Everybody talks about it, but you have to be there to have a crack so we’re super-happy we’ve managed to do that and win another final. Now we look ahead to France and London to try to win the World Series.”
Brady Rush scored the winning try against No. 2 Argentina as New Zealand recorded its first Cup win in Singapore since 2005.
New Zealand has reached the podium in seven of the nine stops this season, winning four of the last five events.
No. 3 Fiji rallied from a 19-7 deficit to down No. 6 Samoa 24-19 in the bronze-medal game. Samoa, which has lost 10 straight third-place games on the circuit, had beaten Fiji 28-7 earlier in Pool B play.
France currently sits fourth in the overall standings, 10 points ahead of Australia and 11 ahead of Samoa. Australia beat No. 10 Britain 24-21 in the fifth-place game.
The Canadian men, who dropped into the consolation bracket after finishing third in Pool B, had another tough weekend.
They went 2-4-0, losing the 13th-place playoff 22-17 to the eighth-ranked Americans despite three tries by Josiah Morra.
After defeating Spain (21-7) and losing to Fiji (21-12) and Samoa (39-7) on Saturday, Canada rebounded from a 28-14 loss to No. 13 Kenya — led by former Canada coach Damian McGrath — by dispatching invitational side Hong Kong (26-5) before falling to the U.S.
The World Series is reducing the men’s field to 12 from 16 next season to equal the number of women’s teams and align with the Olympic competition structure.
The 15th-ranked team following the 10th round in Toulouse will be relegated.
The countries ranked 12th, 13th and 14th at the end of Toulouse will enter a four-team relegation playoff with the Challenger Series 2023 winner at the 11th and final round in London.
Only the playoff winners will retain core status in the 2024 Series.
The Canadians can’t earn enough points in Toulouse to escape the relegation zone and will head to France with just an eight-point lead over 15th-place Japan.
Max Stewart and captain Phil Berna scored for Canada against Kenya.
Tries by Stewart, Berna, Matt Oworu and Will Percillier led Canada past Hong Kong.
On the women’s side, New Zealand, the U.S. and Australia have already qualified for the Olympics.
The men and women resume play May 12-14 in France where the Canadian men will play in Pool A alongside No. 1 New Zealand, No. 11 Uruguay and No. 13 Kenya.
The eighth-ranked Canadian women will play in Pool A in Toulouse, which is the final event of their seven-stop season, with Series leader New Zealand, the third-ranked U.S. and invitational side Poland.
The Canadian Press
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