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Canada women book semifinal berth at Vancouver sevens, men fall to South Africa

Spain's Jimena Blanco-Hortiguera Pedrero, left, and Spain's Anne Fernandez de Corres, right, try to take down Canada's Chloe Daniels during Vancouver Sevens women's rugby action, in Vancouver, on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ethan Cairns

VANCOUVER — Canada's women's rugby sevens team booked its place in the semifinals of the HSBC SVNS Series stop at B.C. Place.

Canada edged the U.S. 12-10 in a nail-biting finish to their quarterfinal match, surviving after the Americans missed a conversion after scoring in the dying moments of the game.

The Canadians will play New Zealand in Sunday's semifinals, while Australia squares off with France in the other final four showdown.

Canadian coach Jack Henratty admitted the fixture was closer than he would have liked, but it showed the maturity of his team.

"I don't know if my heart is still beating," he said. "I think there was incredible resiliency.

"We've been in moments of control in the last few years and we haven't been able to put it away. We've been out-rugby IQ'd and tonight we were able to finish it off."

Krissy Scurfield and Florence Symonds scored twice for Canada in the dying seconds of the first half.

But the U.S. refused to give up, despite going down by two players at one point due to yellow-card cautions.

Ariana Ramsey scored twice but Alev Kelter missed the conversion to seal the win for Canada.

Veteran Olivia Apps acknowledged that the Canadians had made it tough on themselves but showed a resiliency to register the win.

"It feels incredible. This is exactly where we wanted to be to finish this weekend," she said. "I think we made it a little harder on ourselves than we needed to … but I'm so proud of this team."

The Canadian men's team fell 20-14 in the ninth-place semifinal to South Africa, despite a spirited comeback attempt. They will face Spain in the 11th place playoff on Sunday.

Josiah Morra scored twice for Canada with Max Stewart making both conversion attempts.

"Jo's a world beater. You give that guy a little bit of adversity and he rises to the occasion," said head coach Sean White.

"We want to see a little bit more fight, like the one from (Morra)."

But the South Africans capitalized with quick passes and a strong kicking game.

Impi Vesser scored twice in the first half, including one after a heads-up play from a quick-throw deep in Canada's end.

Roscko Specman followed that up with a try by controlling the ball with his thigh after Selvyn Davids sent a kick skittering across the turf for his teammate to run onto.

The loss was Canada's fourth of the tournament, following a 31-14 loss to Spain earlier in the day.

"We didn't do enough to win. We seem to be making the same mistakes we've made the past two games," said White after the loss.

Spain's Josep Serres opened the scoring with Juan Ramos doubling the lead a minute later.

Josiah Morra pulled one back for the Canadians in added time of the first half, with the crowd serenading the team with a rendition of 'O Canada' at halftime.

But the comeback was short-lived as Spain's Ramos scored a try at the start of the second half, eventually pulling away for a comfortable win.

"Any time you give up points with a man advantage is disappointing, not to mention just after half when you have the crowd behind you," White said.

"We just missed the mark too many times and Spain took full advantage."

France's Antoine Dupont also marked his first sevens appearance with a try in a 31-5 win over Australia.

He followed that up with a second try to seal a 10-5 win over Ireland in the men's quarterfinals.

The 27-year-old Dupont skipped this year's Six Nations to play sevens as he bids to win Olympic gold in Paris this summer.

On the men's side on Sunday, the United States will play Argentina in one semifinal, while New Zealand squares off with France in another semi matchup.

In the Canadian women's opening game, Canada rolled to a 22-5 win over Spain.

After taking an early two-try lead courtesy of Fancy Bermudez and Florence Symonds, Spain pulled one back to end the first half 10-5.

Charity Williams restored the lead midway through the second half after receiving an off-load from Symonds to break down the wing. 

The try marked Williams' 452nd point in sevens competition.

"It's been a long time coming, it's been 10 years that I've been on this team and it's a pretty big day for me," she said.

Asia Hogan-Rochester sealed the win with a try with just over a minute left. 

It started with a scrum on the opposite side of the field before Hogan-Rochester found free space.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2024.

Nick Wells, The Canadian Press

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