SPORTS

Canadian women go unbeaten on Day 1 of World Sevens Series rugby event

04/18/2015 04:45 EDT | Updated 07/07/2015 01:59 EDT
LANGFORD, B.C. - Ahead of its first tournament at home, the Canadian women's sevens rugby team tried to stay true to its routine on the road.

They even left their homes to stay in a hotel ahead of the first-ever stop in Canada for the World Rugby's Women's Sevens Series.

But on Saturday evening, after posting wins over Russia, South Africa and the U.S. to advance to a quarter-final Sunday against England, the Canadian women finally allowed themselves to savour success on home soil. The red-clad women embraced happy friends and fans in the crowd of 3,111 at the edge of the Westhills Stadium pitch.

"Super-amazing," said captain Ashley Steacy, a five-foot-two wrecking ball of a defender. "That was the first time we got to actually hug them. Especially coming out of Day 1 3-0, it was really exciting to see their faces and give them hugs and love."

"Absolutely incredible," added Ghislaine Landry, who ran in five tries on the day. "To be home in front of family is massive. They watch (us) all over the world, they're up at 4 a.m. watching games depending where we are. And to get to do it in front of them live is incredible."

Canada opened the day with a 26-15 win over Russia, before thumping South Africa 47-0 and rallying to beat the U.S. 19-15.

Foot-stomping fans chanted "Canada, Canada" in the nightcap against the Americans with one group delivering an impromptu post-game rendition of the national anthem.

New Zealand and Australia also won all three of their matches Saturday, with the Kiwis extending their Series winning streak to 33 games.

Canada is currently tied with Australia for second behind New Zealand in the overall standings. France is fourth and the U.S. fifth. The top four teams at the end of the season qualify automatically for the 2016 Olympics, with the rest forced to book their ticket to Rio via regional tournaments.

England, sixth in the standings, went 1-1-1 Saturday. Canada has beaten the English six times, with five losses.

Other quarter-final matchups Sunday are No. 1 New Zealand (3-0-0) against No. 8 Fiji (1-1-1), No. 2 Australia (3-0-0) versus No. 7 Russia (1-2-0) and the No. 5 U.S. (2-1-0) versus No. 4 France (2-1-0).

Landry's 43-point haul on the day moved her into first place in points scored with 194, ahead of New Zealand's Portia Woodman at 180.

Landry's 23-point total against Russia is the second most in the three-year history of the women's series. Woodman holds the record at 25.

"She's a finisher for us," Canadian coach John Tait said of Landry.

"She's got great pace," he added. "She's a complete package on attack and her defence was good today too, which is important for us."

The day featured glorious weather and a fast-paced 16-game schedule that produced almost 600 points. As players from one game exited the corner of the field, the teams for the next contest ran on.

Music ranging from Amy Winehouse and Blondie to Oasis and Tone-Loc played during breaks in the matches, but at a more acceptable volume than most North American arenas.

There were no upsets, with teams playing according to form although the Fijians did tie England 19-19.

NOTES: South Africa's Marithay Pienaar was stretchered off the field after being bowled over in a Canadian attack. A tournament spokesman said later she was moving ... Toronto's Katrina Santilly, who has dual citizenship via her Brazilian-born mother, made her senior debut for Brazil.

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