Women’s and men’s teams shared the turf at BC Place for the HSBC Canada Sevens for the first time on Friday, an action-packed first day of competition in Vancouver. This also marked the beginning of the 200th men’s tournament in the history of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Canada’s Women’s Sevens Team took to the field for their first match, and their first meeting with Ireland this season, on Friday morning in front of 6,500 students from schools in Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.
With this being her 44th HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournament, Bianca Farella hit a new milestone, tying Australia’s Sharni Williams for the all-time women’s record in tournament appearances.
Ireland was first on the board, scoring their first of four tries halfway through the first seven minutes. The crowd of kids erupted in minute thirteen as Keyara Wardley blasted down the outside of the field, scoring Canada’s first try of the tournament. This was Wardley’s first match since December 2022 following recovery from injury. With a conversion from Olivia Apps, the final score was 28-7.
“We really had a lot of excitement going into that game and I think the fans were great,” said Apps. “We really didn’t start the way that we wanted to start, and really didn’t get possession the way we wanted to, but the atmosphere out there is amazing. I’m really excited to see it as the weekend continues. There’s still lots to look forward to.”
It was then Canada’s Men’s Sevens Team’s turn to play Ireland. The Irish had a 21-0 lead at the break, scoring another try early in the second half. Josiah Morra made a highlight reel worthy defensive play in the try zone late in the game to prevent Ireland from increasing their lead further. In the twelfth minute, Kal Sager scored Canada’s first of the tournament, his second ever World Rugby Sevens Series try. Ireland won by a final score of 33-5.
“Being on home soil is crazy. I feel really proud, I was here last year watching the boys, and got to go out with them this time,” said Sager, who made his debut for Canada in Hong Kong in November. “I think we’re now going to go back to the drawing board and just bring so much heart and hopefully blow the top off of BC Place Stadium.”
Tenacity was the name of the game as Canada’s Women’s Sevens Team took on the United States in a Friday night match-up. Canada spent the majority of the first half inside their 22, with Ilona Maher scoring first for the USA in the third minute, giving them a 5-0 lead. Canada held off the Americans, opening the second half on the attack. Bianca Farella beat a pair of defenders in the eighth minute to score, and with a conversion from Chloe Daniels, Canada took a 7-5 lead.
The United States responded with two tries and a conversion, but Canada put on a great final effort, with Alysha Corrigan closing the gap in extra time and bringing the final score to 17-12.
“Disappointing outcome for us, but it was a good game,” said Corrigan, who spoke about how the team is now looking towards their final pool play game. “We played Brazil earlier this season in Australia and they gave us a good game, so we’re looking forward to that.”
The final match of the day saw Canada’s Men’s Sevens Team claim a big win over Australia. Matt Percillier shone, scoring his first try in the fourth minute to open scoring. Australia responded immediately to tie the game 5-5, but it was Percillier running once again down the field with a smile on his face to score and re-take the lead for Canada. Leading 10-5 at the break, it was Alex Russell who scored next for Canada, running the full length of the field. Australia put in one final effort with a try and a conversion, but Kal Sager and Thomas Isherwood pushed through Australia’s defence to further increase Canada’s score. With two conversions from Isherwood, the game ended with a score of 29-12.
“First game obviously was a little bit of a let down, but we moved on from there and we’re really looking forward to taking that energy into our game tomorrow,” said Percillier. “We talked about it in the dressing room before the game that our momentum doesn’t just come from the attack, such as tries and what not, but also from the defence, so big hits, big tackles, big key momentum switches.”
“It feels like every time we come here, something great happens,” said interim Head Coach Sean White. “Job’s not done, we’ve got to follow it up tomorrow, but it puts us in a really good spot.”
Canada’s sevens teams close out pool play on Saturday March 4. Canada’s Women’s Sevens Team plays Brazil at 11:28 a.m. PT / 2:28 p.m. ET, and Canada’s Men’s Sevens Team plays Chile at 2:35 p.m. PT / 5:35 p.m. ET.