Rugby sevens made its long-awaited return to Starlight Stadium this weekend as Canada’s women qualified for the Olympics, while the men will have to fight another day.
The women stormed to victory in the final on Sunday (Aug. 20), winning 53-0 against Mexico, the same opposition they had beaten 82-0 the previous day. Over the weekend, the women scored 288 points and conceded 12, scoring 46 tries in the process and sealing their spot at the Paris 2024 Olympics.
The men’s team had a tougher time, narrowly beating Jamaica on Saturday (Aug. 19) before losing out to the USA in the final 14-24 on Sunday.
The Rugby Americas North (RAN) Sevens event held in Langford on Aug. 19 and 20., saw six men’s and four women’s teams from throughout North America compete for one spot apiece in Paris.
— bailey (@moreton_bailey) August 19, 2023
The crowd was in a buoyant mood as the Canadian women took to the field against Saint Lucia for their first game on Saturday (Aug. 19). Canada ran away with it as they scored a boatload of tries while blanking their opposition 59-0.
“We train here every day, we walk through those doors every day and walk through that tunnel every day but it’s different when you’ve got 4,000 people slamming on the floor,” said women’s head coach Jack Hanratty.
The ongoing wildfires in B.C. caused an air quality advisory for the Island on Saturday. While the conditions may have added another challenge for the players on the field, it is one they could cope with, according to women’s team member Sophie de Goede.
“We train a lot for this obviously, we don’t train in the smog and it’s terrible to have these fires going on, but I think we do train in the heat, it’s been a hot summer in Victoria.”
The men’s team also started well, running out 38-0 winners against Barbados, although not as strongly as captain Phil Berna would have liked.
“No,” he said when asked if he thought the performance was good enough to beat the USA. “But we have another day – I’m sure we’ll rise to the challenge.”
The men found it tough in their second game, winning a scrappy game 21-12 against Jamaica. Canada was down to six men at one point after giving away a penalty try and needed a late converted try from Brock Webster to seal the victory.
While Canadian jerseys and flags dominated the stands there were several pockets of fans cheering on the other nations competing.
Jose Miguel, who moved to Vancouver from Mexico a year ago, came across on the ferry to cheer on his compatriots.
“I’m a huge rugby fan, I used to train rugby all my life and used to train with some of the guys so I am just here to support my friends.”
There was a late change to the schedule with the men’s and women’s teams from St. Vincent and the Grenadines dropping out a day before the tournament started.
Despite losing in the final, the men’s team still have a chance of joining the women at the Olympics. Their second-place finish means they qualify for the repechage tournament, which will see 12 teams from around the world vying for one spot at the Olympics.