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Canadian women finish third at HSBC SVNS, men finish 12th

VANCOUVER — The Canadian women's rugby sevens squad has finished on the podium for the first time this HSBC SVNS season, with head coach Jack Hanratty hoping it inspires his players to Olympic glory.

The Canadian women's rugby sevens squad claimed third place at the tournament at B.C. Place after outlasting Australia 19-14 on Sunday.

"We want to compete for an Olympic medal and hopefully today is the day that they finally believe we can compete for an Olympic medal," Hanratty said after the win.

"Because if this was the Olympics, we'd be standing here with the Olympic medal around our neck.”

Krissy Scurfield opened the scoring for Canada in the opening minute, screaming for a pass before running it down the field for the try.

"I saw Chloe Daniels, who is one of the best playmakers in the world, in there and I honestly wanted her to go for a kick," Scurfield said.

"But then the gap opened up for me. She gave it right in front of me and then I just knew I had to run 50 metres to the try-line. So gave it all I got."

The Australian defensive line was caught off guard by the burst of speed from the 20-year-old back.

"I was running full speed and I don't think the defence adjusted to it right away. So I mean, as soon as the ball was in the air, I knew I had to just keep running on to the ball with speed."

Australia tied it through Madison Ashby, before Daniels outran Charlotte Caslick — a veteran of 292 sevens matches with 857 points to her name — to retake the lead.

"That’s the thing, we know all of their names, because they're the best players in the world," Hanratty said, referencing Caslick.

“And what we want to do is we want the opposition to know our names because (our team is) the best, and if you're going to be well known, you have to make dream teams, you've got to perform in the semifinals. Consistently.”

Charity Williams then scored her sixth try of the tournament to seal the win and third place.

The win, to Williams, ranks as a top moment as a longtime member of the national team.

"I've been a part of this program for over a decade, which seems crazy to me because I'm only 27. This is the most special one ever had," she said.

"We had goals, we had bronze at the Olympics, we've had so many amazing accomplishments and this one at home, and this team and these girls, nothing compares, honestly."

Canada lost 15-7 earlier in the day in the semifinals to New Zealand. The Black Ferns went on to finish first in the tournament, beating France 35-19 in the final.

Hanratty felt his young side held its own against an experienced Black Ferns squad.

"I thought we matched them physically," he said. "We have to look at instead of chasing a game, how we can dictate the tempo."

Michaela Blyde scored twice in the first half to send New Zealand out to an early lead before Scurfield ran nearly the length of the field to put Canada on the board.

But New Zealand put the game away early in the second half with Portia Woodman-Wickliffe scoring the try.

The experience of playing a historically dominant rugby sevens squad in the later stages of a tournament is good preparation for Canada ahead of the Olympic Games, Hanratty added.

"If we're going to be Olympic medal contenders this year, if we lose a semifinal we can't lay down the chips, we have to make sure we bounce back," he said.

In men's action, Argentina beat New Zealand 36-12 to claim first place, while France hammered the United States 42-12 for third place.

Argentina is unbeaten in 18 games at B.C. Place.

The Canadian men's rugby sevens squad finished 12th at the HSBC SVNS on Sunday after losing 17-12 to Spain in sudden-death overtime.

Canada went winless in the tournament on home turf, also losing to Spain in group stage action Saturday. It was the third time in four events this season the Canadian men have finished last.

Elias Hancock opened the scoring for Canada after Thomas Isherwood won a line-in, off-loading to Jack Carson.

Spain countered with Juan Ramos scoring before Carson regained the lead for Canada at the end of the first half.

But the Spanish side tied the score thanks to Francisco Cosculluela before securing the win in overtime.

Canadian head coach Sean White was happy with the fight shown by his team.

"That's the response we're looking for," he said. "We wanted more grit.

"We're creating opportunities, we're just not capitalizing at the moment."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2024.

Nick Wells, The Canadian Press