- Blitzboks qualify for the quarter-finals from Pool A as top seeds
- Pool B winners USA reverse Cup quarter-final loss to Kenya
- Ireland secure top spot in Pool C as Germany stun Great Britain
- Canada achieve a record home win on their way to the quarter-finals
- Liam Herbert makes Hong Kong history
- Great Britain dominate Fast Four
While it was business as usual for Vancouver winners South Africa on the opening day of the HSBC Canada Sevens in Edmonton, Germany reminded everyone of the unpredictable nature of sevens in reaching a Series Cup quarter-final for the first time in history.
Having come so close to beating Ireland in the opening game of the day, Damian McGrath’s side stunned Great Britain 19-10 and can now look forward to a last-eight meeting with Kenya.
The free-scoring Blitzboks, who beat Kenya in Vancouver to top the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series standings, were joined by USA and Ireland in going through the pool stage unbeaten.
Neil Powell's side were relentless at the Commonwealth Stadium, scoring 148 points and only conceding five, and look in good shape to win a second consecutive tournament and clinch the shortened Series title on Sunday.
In the women’s Fast Four, Mexico will take much confidence from scoring two tries – their first points of last weekend and this – in a battling performance against hosts Canada. But once again, they finished winless and it was semi-final opponents Great Britain who ended the day on top of the standings.
Here’s how the drama unfolded as Edmonton, a new Series destination, embraced the sevens spirit.
DAY ONE REVIEW
The Blitzboks silenced the noisy Commonwealth Stadium crowd as they signed off another impressive display of rugby sevens with a 49-0 win over Canada to finish top of Pool A ahead of the host team. Converted tries from Muller du Plessis, Zain Davids and Selvyn Davids – an injury replacement for last week’s hero Angelo Davids – put the Blitzboks into a commanding 21-0 lead. Du Plessis went on to score a hat-trick as the one-way traffic continued with the Blitzboks recording a 49-0 win.
With last week’s top try-scorer Angelo Davids missing through injury, the responsibility for putting points on the board was shared around by South Africa and there were 12 different try-scorers in their first two games.
The Vancouver champions began with a 56-0 win against Mexico – their biggest win on the Series since defeating Germany 70-0 in London in 2009 – and 43-5 against Hong Kong. Darren Adonis got a brace in the first and Muller du Plessis and Siviwe Soyizwapi crossed twice in the second, but the remainder of the Blitzboks’ nine tries were distributed evenly.
Canada had also made it safely through to the quarter-finals before the table-topping decider with the Blitzboks thanks to a hard-fought 21-12 win against Hong Kong and a less challenging encounter with Mexico, which ended with a record margin of victory on home soil of 47-0. Replacement Thomas Isherwood became only the fourth Canadian to score a Series hat-trick at a home tournament.
An earlier 40-19 win for Spain against Chile meant Hong Kong needed to beat Mexico by 43 points to take the spot in the quarter-finals reserved for the second-best third-place team, a task that did not prove beyond the Asian team and Los Leones missed out on points difference as a result.
Paul John’s team wasted no time in wiping out the points differential as they raced into a 42-0 half-time lead. The final scoreline of 70-0 included a first-half hat-trick from Max Denmark hat-trick, while Liam Herbert went one better with two in each half, to become the first Hong Kong player to cross the line four times in a Series match, as Hong Kong racked up 10 tries on their way to a 70-0 win against Mexico.
Kenya and USA had made it through to the last eight at the earliest possible opportunity with wins against Spain and Chile before meeting to decide the pool winner.
USA took command and went into half-time 12-0 up before Kenya came out firing to score two converted tries and lead 14-12. Martin Iosefo had been quiet up to that point but just when his team needed a big moment from a big player, the two-time Olympian came up with the matchwinner in the corner with around 30 seconds to go. It was sweet revenge for Mike Friday’s team who’d been beaten by the same 19-14 scoreline in last week’s Vancouver Cup quarter-final.
Earlier on, Kevon Williams, USA’s sole representative in the Vancouver HSBC Dream Team, continued his good form with a hat-trick and David Still, another notable performer last week, bagged a late brace as the Men’s Sevens Eagles recovered from 12-5 down to beat Spain 29-17 in their first match. USA were slow to warm to their task against Chile but 21 unanswered points in the second half saw them pull clear and win 33-5.
Vancouver runners-up Kenya had no trouble seeing off Chile, 33-5, with veteran Willy Ambaka rolling back the years with a brace, and then Spain were beaten 26-12, to set up the showdown against the Men’s Sevens Eagles.
For the second time in two weeks, it ended honours even in the pool stage between Ireland and Great Britain as both teams progressed through to the last eight. But whereas Ireland topped the pool as they did in Vancouver, a shock defeat to Germany meant Great Britain had to settle for a place in the quarter-finals as the best third-placed team.
Germany finished in second spot and it could have been even better for Damian McGrath’s side had they closed out a win against Ireland in the opening match of the day. Building on the momentum of a good showing in Vancouver, where they finished ninth, Germany led 17-12 and looked all set to claim victory in the first Series meeting between the sides. However, the Irish capitalised on a yellow card to Sam Rainger to score through Niall Comerford. Billy Dardis knocked over the conversion and Ireland had the win.
Max McFarland scored his second hat-trick in as many tournaments as Great Britain began with a big 48-0 win against Jamaica. It was a big improvement on their 24-5 win against the Crocs in Vancouver, but they came unstuck against Germany who registered only their third pool win in Series history thanks to tries from Marcel Coetzee and Anjo Buckman.
A brilliant chip and chase try from Shane Jennings was the standout feature of Ireland’s 38-7 win over Jamaica although Jordan Conroy’s closing score was also notable as it was Ireland’s 300th on the Series. Tries from Liam Turner and Conroy then saw Ireland come from behind twice against Great Britain, for whom McFarland was on the scoresheet again.
On a competitive opening day in Edmonton, the women’s Fast Four witnessed two draws and Mexico’s first points and tries of the competition.
However, the day ended as it did in Vancouver last week with Great Britain securing top seeding in the semi-final draw.
Welsh flyer Jasmine Joyce also carried on where she left off with a brace in Great Britain’s 29-19 win against USA taking her to the top of the try-scoring charts with five.
Canada and USA had opened up proceedings in Edmonton with a 26-26 thriller which featured three yellow cards and a last-minute try that Canada captain Olivia Apps coolly converted to give her side a share of the spoils. Summer Harris-Jones was in red-hot form for the Women’s Sevens Eagles, who duly dispatched Mexico 37-0 in their next game. After a routine 43-0 win over Mexico, Great Britain were held 7-7 by Canada.
Amy Wilson Hardy and Joyce were on the board for Great Britain in the first half in the concluding match against USA but the Women’s Sevens Eagles refused to lie down and scored tries of their own through Steph Rovetti and Joanne Fa'avesi, the latter coming after a lovely feint and fend.
The try of the match, however, went to Joyce who showed off her trademark speed to outpace the American defence down the left flank. Celia Quansah and Heather Cowell secured the win before Lote Tausinga got a late consolation for the Women’s Sevens Eagles.
DAY TWO PREVIEW
The men’s Cup quarter-finals begin with what should be an enthralling encounter between USA and Great Britain, kick-off 09:20 local time.
The Men’s Sevens Eagles will need to put past history behind them if they want to compete for the gold medal as they have never reached the Cup final in Canada before, losing all three previous semi-finals in 2017, 2018 and 2019, and each of the past two Cup quarter-finals in Vancouver.
Having won bronze in Vancouver, Great Britain will be hoping to move higher up the podium, but a big improvement will be needed from them after a win, a draw and a defeat on day one.
At 09:42, Ireland are up against a Canadian side looking to bounce back from a heavy defeat to South Africa at the back end of day two.
Kenya against Germany is next on the agenda, at 10:04, with the Shujaa ultimately looking to make back-to-back Cup final appearances.
Up until Vancouver last week, Kenya hadn’t contested a Cup final in three years. The last time they reached the Cup final at consecutive events was 2018 in Vancouver, then Hong Kong, earning silver at both tournaments.
With Germany entering unchartered waters, you have to go back to the pool stage of the London Sevens in 2006 to find the last time these two teams met on the Series. Kenya won 35-7 on that occasion.
Last but not least, South Africa and Hong Kong meet again (10:26) after the Blitzboks won 43-5 on day one in Edmonton. South Africa go into the match on a nine-game winning streak since the start of last week and will be strong favourites to extend that run to double figures having outscored their opponents 199-17 across their last five meetings.
Hong Kong played in their first Series Cup quarter-final last week, losing 12-7 to Ireland.
The ninth-place semi-finals follow on immediately before the Fast Four semi-finals take place. In a repeat of last week, top seeds Great Britain come up against Mexico (11:42) and then Canada face USA (12:04).
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