Day two of the HSBC Canada Sevens has taken its toll on the top teams. South Africa, Fiji and New Zealand, all in the top four in the world, failed to reach the Cup semi-finals.
South Africa were knocked out in the pool stage for the first time this season and were then beaten in their ninth-place quarter-final against Kenya. The Blitzboks had not experienced this situation since the end of the 2022 season (Toulouse in May, then Los Angeles in August). Third in the standings, they will now have to fight for 13th place.
Los Pumas Sevens beat Fiji 19-14 in the dying moments of their Cup quarter-final thanks to a brace from the impressive Marcos Moneta. They will play their semi-final against Ireland.
France proved that they have what it takes to compete with the world's top four by beating Great Britain 15-7 in a well-controlled second half. In 2019, after a disappointing tournament in Las Vegas, where they had finished at the bottom of the standings, Les Bleus finished with a silver medal around their neck a week later, in Vancouver. Will Jérôme Daret's men repeat the feat?
They will not have New Zealand in their way as they were eliminated from the Cup race by Australia, a first for this season. The second day of the tournament saw the mid-table teams rise to the occasion: France (seventh), Australia (sixth) and Ireland (ninth).
QUARTER-FINALS: FIJI AND NEW ZEALAND KNOCKED OUT OF THE CUP RACE
In the first quarter-final, France had two good opportunities to take the lead in the first half through Jean-Pascal Barraque and Stephan Parez, after Max McFarland opened the scoring for Great Britain, but they were not taken. Paul Leraître pulled France back to within two points thanks to an assist from Theo Forner, who then scored twice himself to send Les Bleus into the semi-finals.
The next match would see a major team fall, either Argentina or Fiji. Jerry Tuwai, a two-time Olympic gold medallist at Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020, used his silky skills to open the scoring. Los Pumas Sevens quickly found the gaps, locked down the Fijian defence and created space for Matías Osadczuk and Marcos Moneta to run into. Manueli Maisamoa levelled the scores for Fiji but when they lost a man to the sin-bin for a high tackle, Argentina capitalised on the extra space to set up the winning score for Moneta.
New Zealand, who have won back-to-back tournaments in Sydney and Los Angeles, began their quarter-final against Australia by conceding two first-half tries to Henry Paterson and Darby Lancaster either side of one from Ngarohi McGarvey-Black. But the All Blacks Sevens couldn't find the strength to bounce back in the second half, leaving Australia to pile on the points with Paterson scoring twice. With injuries disrupting their progress in recent weeks, Australia produced a big performance to knock out the men in black in the quarter-finals (17-7), something that had never happened before this season.
Ireland scored in the first minute through Jack Kelly but the USA found a response just before half-time when Perry Baker dotted down for his 250th try.
Tries from the equally prolific Jordan Conroy and Malacchi Esdale ensured the match went into sudden death, extra-time, and after no points were scored in the first five minutes, Zac Ward broke through after the short turnaround and gave Ireland a 15-10 win and a semi-final tie against Argentina.
POOL A: USA TO THE END OF THE EFFORT
It only took 15 seconds for the USA to score against Spain, and a few more minutes for Spain to respond. The last time these two teams met, the week before in Los Angeles, Los Leones won by a narrow margin. At half-time at the BC Place in Vancouver, the game was just as close at 14-14 and the score remained that way until the 12th minute.
USA Men's Eagles Sevens' fast and skilful play masked their fatigue after such an intense game but they looked to have won it when David Still scored with just seconds left. But Spain did not give up, they took advantage of a penalty awarded in extra time to give it their all, and Jaime Manteca managed to snatch a 19-19 draw.
USA finished second behind New Zealand, who easily beat Samoa 40-5 by six tries to one, including a Joe Webber hat-trick and an Akuila Rokolisoa run of almost 100 metres at the buzzer. The All Blacks Sevens will play Australia in the quarter-finals while the USA will meet Ireland.
POOL B: FRANCE SAVED AT THE LAST MINUTE, SOUTH AFRICA KNOCKED OUT
After their draw against the Blitzboks and their defeat against Los Pumas the day before, France knew only a big win against Japan and an Argentina win against South Africa could allow them to reach the quarter-finals.
With four tries in the first half, including a brace from Paul Leraître, two conversions from Jean-Pascal Barraque and a superb try-saving tackle from Varian Pasquet on the line just before the break, the first part of the challenge seemed to be well underway.
France followed this up with four more tries and broke the 40-point barrier. Josua Kerevi's try failed to stop the machine and France won by a large margin 46-5, which is the second-largest result scored against Japan (the highest being 50-7 in Cape Town in 2016).
It remained to be seen how Argentina would perform against South Africa in the 70th encounter between the teams. The first half ended scoreless first half, a rare occurrence in the history of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
It wasn't until the 11th minute that replacement Marcos Moneta broke the deadlock and gave Argentina the lead. Two minutes later, German Schulz scored after a nice assist from his teammate to strengthen Les Bleus' hopes of playing in quarter-finals against Great Britain (12-0). This is the first time this season that South Africa have been knocked out in the pool stage.
POOL C: FIJI'S COMEBACK
As in Sydney 2023, the last time the two teams met, Kenya trailed by two points at the break but did not give up against Uruguay. But unlike at the end of January, this time it was Los Teros who won (21-19), winning their second pool match to put themselves in a strong position. Only a Great Britain win over Fiji would have allowed them to finish second in the pool and thus play a quarter-final, which would have been a first for this team back on the World Series.
In the next match, a superb first-half hat-trick from Welshman Tom Williams gave the Fijians some serious problems, but they did manage to find a response through Waisea Nacuqu.
That gave Fiji momentum to take into the second half and tries from Iowane Teba, Ponepati Loganimasi and Rauto Vakadanu gave them a comprehensive 26-15 win.
Despite two wins in the pool phase, including a first against Fiji on the first day and the second against Kenya on the second, Uruguay failed to qualify.
POOL D: LONGBOTTOM QUALIFIES AUSTRALIA FOR THE QUARTER-FINALS
After the women's victory over Brazil earlier in the day, Canada's men also had their chance to beat a South American team and finish their pool phase on a high with a game against Chile. A brace from Josiah Morra, another from Matthew Percillier, who scored in the win over Australia the day before, and a last-gasp effort from Jake Thiel ruined any hope of Chile, a regular guest in Vancouver, threatening Canada, despite a 13th-minute try from Baltazar Jana.
Despite the 35-7 victory, Canada finished with two wins in the pool stage but no chance of progressing to the quarter-finals.
Australia, suffering from their loss to Canada the day before, struggled to get back on track against Ireland in their final pool match of the day. Despite an early try from Darby Lancaster, Australia were unable to extend their lead at the break against an Irish side willing to empty the tank to keep the game close.
Jordan Conroy's try, the 100th of his World Series career, cancelled out Dally Bird's earlier try and Australia needed to score to qualify. Henry Paterson did so at the very end and thanks to Maurice Longbottom's magic boot, Australia booked their place in the quarter-finals against New Zealand (21-7).
In the quarter-finals for ninth place, Uruguay followed up with a third straight win against Japan 14-7, South Africa's woes continued with a 17-12 loss to Kenya in the last seconds, Samoa beat Chile by a wide margin 28-12 and Spain beat Cabada 19-14.