(Rugby Canada/Instagram)

Canada faces powerful Australia in women’s rugby sevens semifinal Down Under

Canada was third in Sydney and fourth in season opener, now tied on points with New Zealand, Russia

Michaela Blyde scored two second-half tries as New Zealand rallied from a 7-5 halftime deficit to defeat Canada 24-7 in women’s rugby sevens action at the Commonwealth Games.

The Black Ferns (3-0-0) won Pool A with Canada second (2-1-0).

Both teams advance to Sunday’s semifinals in the debut of women’s rugby sevens at the games. But as runner-up, the Canadian women have to face powerful Australia which went unbeaten in topping Pool B. New Zealand will face England (2-1-0) in the other semifinal.

The Australian women won the first two stops on the World Series without a loss and did not concede a point last time, outscoring Spain, Papua New Guinea, France, Russia and New Zealand 184-0 en route to the tournament title in Sydney.

Canada was third in Sydney and fourth in the season opener in Dubai, where it lost 25-7 to Australia in the Cup semifinal. The Canadians are currently tied on points (30) with New Zealand and Russia in the World Series standings behind Australia (40).

“We’re excited to be meeting the top team in the world,” said Canadian Caroline Crossley. “We just need to keep the ball and stayed composed.”

The Australian women beat Canada en route to wining gold at the Rio Olympics, The Canadian went on to win bronze.

“I’m having flashbacks to Rio but this time hopefully it will be a better result,” said Canadian Bianca Farella.

“We now have a different team with better game structure and a higher skill level so we hope to apply everything we’ve been doing in training,” she added.

The Canadian men had a rough day at Robina Stadium, starting with a 26-10 loss to Kenya. Nate Hirayama and Justin Douglas scored tries for Canada which fell victim to late second-half converted tries from Nelson Oyoo and Willie Ambaka.

The Kenyans, who stand seventh overall in the World Series standings, were coming off a runner-up finish to Fiji at the Hong Kong sevens.

Canada, 11th in the World Series standings, bounced back to thump Zamba 47-0.

Mike Fuailefau scored three tries for Canada with singles from Nate Hirayama, Justin Douglas, Andrew Coe and Lucas Hammond. Hirayama booted six conversions. The Canadian men led 33-0 at the half.

There was one negative note as Canadian Connor Braid limped off in the first half.

Canada closed out the day with a poor showing in a 33-7 loss to New Zealand. The score flattered the Canadian men with Admir Cejvanovic scoring Canada’s lone try with no time remaining.

“This wasn’t the result we were after,” said Canada captain John Moonlight. “We have to make sure we represent Canada as best as we can.”

New Zealand will play England in one men’s final while Fiji faces South Africa in the other.

New Zealand strike runner Portia Woodman opened the scoring against the Canadian women, dancing around Hannah Darling and rocketing down the sideline for a 5-0 lead. With New Zealand captain Sarah Goss for a failed interception attempt off for a yellow card, Julia Greenshields scored in the corner and captain Ghislaine Landry made the difficult conversion for a 7-5 lead.

Blyde was yellow-carded on the play for a high tackle as she tried unsuccessfully to tackle Greenshields sort of the goal-line.

Briefly down to five players, New Zealand survived and went ahead 10-7 on a Blyde try after a Canadian turnover deep in its own half. Blyde added to the lead when playmaker Tyla Nathan-Wong saw Canada didn’t have a sweeper and kicked into space for the reigning women’s sevens player of the year, who gathered the ball and ran in for the try.

After Nathan-Wong added the conversion, Stacey Waaka scored in the corner with the clock winding down. Nathan-Wong’s successful kick made it 24-7.

“It was frustrating, really,” said Crossley. “We held it together in the first half and it was close. We just didn’t stay composed and we turned the ball over a few times.”

Goss called it a “typical” Canada-New Zealand match.

“Canada are awesome. Their speed on the outside is amazing,” she said. “We managed to get two tries to hang in there and we came away with that one, so we’re pretty stoked.”

On Friday, Crossley became the first woman to score a try in Commonwealth Games rugby sevens as Canada blanked South Africa 29-0. The Canadians then dispatched Kenya 24-12.

The Canadian Press

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