Canada rugby women qualify for Paris Olympics, men’s team faces another qualifier

Canada rugby women qualify for Paris Olympics, men's team faces another qualifier
Canada's Chloe Daniels passes the ball away before being pulled down by St. Lucia's Renetta Fredericks during women's semifinal rugby action at the Rugby Sevens Paris 2024 Olympic qualification event at Starlight Stadium in Langford, B.C., Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023.

Canada’s women’s rugby sevens team is going to next summer’s Olympic Games in Paris, but the men’s team will have to continue trying to qualify.

The Canadian women trounced Mexico 53-0 Sunday afternoon to win an Olympic-qualifying tournament in Langford, while the men fell to the U.S. 24-14 in their final.

“I am over the moon,” said a beaming Fancy Bermudez, who contributed one try in the Mexican drubbing, before joining teammates in a wild celebration mid-pitch at Starlight Stadium, to the delight of the 3,811 on hand.

“We’ve been working so hard and like, this is the best feeling to have finally accomplished it.”

The Canadian women dumped St. Lucia 41-7 earlier in the afternoon, surrendering the only points on a weekend in which they outscored their opponents 288-7 over five games.

“We’re happy with this result, but we’re ready for more,” Bermudez added.

The women are currently ranked ninth in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and were expected to come out of this tournament with a ticket to France.

Women’s coach Jack Hanratty said he felt “relieved,” because “we were favourites coming in so we haven’t had that tag in a while, so to be able to back it up is great.”

The men, meanwhile, disposed of Mexico 54-5 in one of the day’s earlier semifinals, but ran into a determined U.S. team in the final.

“Disappointing,” was the one-word answer men’s coach Sean White supplied at first, following the tough setback.

The turning point in the men’s final came early in the second half with Canada having just scored to pull within 12-7. But an errant lineout allowed American speedster Kevon Williams to gobble up the ball and sprint his way into the Canadian end for a 19-7 lead.

“There are momentum swings all the time,” White said. “We can’t pinpoint it to one moment (but) … we were a little bit off the mark.”

Canada’s captain Phil Berna couldn’t hide his feelings following the loss.

“We didn’t go down without a fight,” said Berna. “It’s been a long, draining season for us, we’ve been fighting for our lives the whole year.”

The Canadian men will have to win a repechage tournament later this year to qualify for Paris.

“It’s going to be a dogfight with all the second-place teams from the rest of the region,” Berna said.

Jamaica placed third to take the women’s bronze, while Mexico took bronze on the men’s side.

Mark Brennae, The Canadian Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 20, 2023.

The Canadian PressThe Canadian Press

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