Canada’s men can look forward to competing at the Olympic Games for the first time after winning the Rugby Americas North Sevens title, while Jamaica and Mexico men’s and women’s teams will head to the Olympic Repechage tournament next year.
Number one seeds Canada justified their favourites tag in the Rugby Americas North (RAN) Sevens men’s competition as they completed an unbeaten two days in George Town in the Cayman Islands with a 40-5 win over Jamaica in Sunday’s final.
Determined to join their female counterparts at Tokyo 2020, Canada put on a clinical display to see off a Jamaican side that still has another chance to qualify via next year’s Olympic Repechage tournament. That route is also still open to Mexico thanks to their third-place finish.
Canada’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series experience gave them a distinct edge over their rivals throughout and the final was no different with the team able to score at any given opportunity, crossing for tries by Pat Kay, Andrew Coe, Isaac Kaay and co-captains Nathan Hirayama and Harry Jones.
Nevertheless, Jamaica can be proud of their performance under the inspired captaincy of Ashley Smith and now have a year to build towards the repechage under new head coach Steve Lewis.
“A lot of us have been grinding for this for a long, long time,” said Canada co-captain Jones after the match. “There are a lot of boys back home that couldn’t be here but they were on the field with us. To all of our fans, supporters, staff, before and now, we love you all. This is such a great feeling.”
Victory over Bermuda secured Mexico the bronze medal, while in the day’s earlier matches the Cayman Islands delighted their hometown fans with a Shield final win over an experienced Guyana side and Trinidad and Tobago beat Barbados to seventh place.
Mexico women reign supreme
With USA and Canada having secured their place for Tokyo 2020 last month after finishing second and third respectively in the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2019, winning the RAN Sevens did not come with automatic qualification for three-time defending champions Mexico.
Instead, Las Serpientes and beaten finalists Jamaica will represent the Rugby Americas North region at the repechage next year.
Jamaica had high hopes of lifting the women’s title having beaten Mexico 24-7 in the last round of pool play, but ill-discipline cost them dear in the showpiece match as Mexico capitalised on three yellow cards awarded against the Lady Crocs to win 19-15 and secure a third successive RAN title.
Mexico’s Isabela Gonzales produced an inspirational performance, scoring a brace of tries and slotting two conversions to help her side overcome a 10-7 half-time deficit.
“We are very happy. We were able to learn from each game and adjust our game plan accordingly to reach the result that we did against Jamaica, who were a fierce opponent and really tested us in the first match,” said jubilant Mexico captain Karina Landero
“Our teamwork and passion was the key to our success throughout the tournament. Now our focus is on the Pan American Games in Lima at the end of July. We are looking forward to rising to the occasion. We’ve been waiting for this moment and we are ready for more.”
Seven men’s and six women’s teams have now confirmed their places at Tokyo 2020, where the men’s competition will run from 27-29 July, followed by the women’s from 30 July to 1 August.
Hosts Japan have qualified their men’s and women’s teams with Argentina’s and Canada’s men and Brazil’s women booking their tickets as regional qualifier winners over the last month. Fiji, USA, New Zealand and South Africa finished in the top four of the men’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2019 to confirm their places, as did New Zealand, USA, Canada and Rio 2016 Olympic champions Australia via the women’s series.
Photo: Bob Stuke / RAN