Canada drops opening matches against top-ranked South Africa, Australia in rugby 7s in Vancouver

The Canadian men’s rugby team did a lot of big things right, but enough little things wrong to lose their opening two games Saturday at the HSBC Canada Sevens rugby tournament at BC Place Stadium.

The Canadians opened the day losing 26-10 to Australia in a game they led 10-0 with less than two minutes gone on tries by Alex Russell and Jake Thiel before Australia stormed back with 26 unanswered points.

In their second match against South Africa, Canada trailed 12-0 at half time then battled back for a 14-12 lead off tries from David Richard and Cooper Coats before losing 19-14. Coats kicked two converts.

“We’re gutted man, we’re so disappointed with that loss,” said Thiel, who, along with Captain Phil Berna, is one of the few veterans remaining on the young Canadian team.

“The boys showed so much heart out there.”

WATCH | Canada vs. Australia rugby 7s:

HSBC Men’s World Rugby Sevens Series Vancouver: Canada vs. Australia

Watch Canada host Australia at the HSBC M en’s World Rugby Sevens Series in Vancouver. 20:03

A total of 10 veterans retired from the sevens team that finished eighth at the Tokyo Olympics.

Canada played strong defense against South Africa but had trouble with their throw-ins on several line outs and also coughed up the ball a couple of times.

“Simple mistakes but that’s one of the best teams in the world,” Thiel said. “We hung with them. We scared them. We scared Australia.”

WATCH | Canada vs. South Africa rugby 7s:

HSBC Men’s World Rugby Sevens Series Vancouver: Canada vs. South Africa

Watch Canada host South Africa at the HSBC Men’s World Rugby Sevens Series in Vancouver. 22:50

Bern said the Canadians could not maintain the early momentum they built against Australia.

“We have to close out games like that and learn to manage it better,” he said. “That’s kind of the thing with a young team. Things kind of get away from you sometimes. I’m proud of how we started there.”

Russell said Australia is a quality side that took advantage of Canadian mistakes.

“It’s our own mistakes we’ve got to fix,” he said. “We’ve got the talent, we can score tries. We’ve just got to finetune things now.”

Stiff competition for Canadians

Canada drew into a tough pool with South Africa, Australia and Spain in the 16-team tournament. The Canadians needed at least one upset Saturday if they hoped to stay in the fight for Sunday’s final.

The top two teams from each pool advance.

Organizers hope to attract around 20,000 fans for each day of the tournament.

Among the colorful and imaginative costumes Saturday were a group of penguins, several pink pigs, some Teletubbies, the Seven Dwarfs complete with long gray beards, workmen in pink hard hats and vests, angels of various sizes, the whole Flintstone family and various furry creatures , many with drinks in their paws. A group of green aliens danced with some astronauts in white suits.

The Canadian men have 24 points in the first five tournaments of the World Rugby Seven Series, leaving them tied for 13th place with Wales among the 19 teams competing.

South Africa leads the standings with 98 points after winning the first four tournaments. Australia and Argentina are tied for second with 83 points. Spain is ninth with 36 points.

Canada’s best result this year was losing in the quarterfinals of the tournament in Malaga, Spain. In the following two tournaments in Seville and last week in Singapore, Canada won just one of 11 games.

Richard, who missed parts of the last two years due to a knee injury, has seen steady improvement on the team.

“We’re a young team and we’re definitely building,” he said. “Each game I feel like we’re getting just a little bit better, learning a little bit more.

“I feel like it’s trending in the right direction.”

WATCH | Rugby Sevens returns to Vancouver:

Rugby Sevens Returns to BC Place

Canada’s men’s rugby sevens team takes on Australia, South Africa and Spain in the only Canadian stop on the Rugby Sevens tour. CBC Sports’ Andrea Burk joins Signa Butler to break it all down. 3:16

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