BRITISH COLUMBIA

Canada finishes disappointing 6th in rugby sevens event, New Zealand wins again

04/19/2015 02:38 EDT | Updated 07/09/2015 09:59 EDT
LANGFORD, B.C. - Canada went off script and paid for it Sunday, finishing a disappointing sixth on home soil in the World Rugby Women's Seven Series.

After going unbeaten Saturday, the Canadians fell out of contention early Sunday in a flat 12-5 quarter-final loss to England.

Canadian coach John Tait, lamenting his team's failure to stick to its game plan, called it a lesson learned ahead of this summer's Pan American Games in Toronto.

"In sports every now and then you need a wakeup call and this will be a good wakeup call for us," he said. "It might have be a case of expecting the (home) crowd to carry us through. That's nice but we've got to rely on ourselves and each other to get the results."

New Zealand, meanwhile, continued to mow down all-comers as it added the Canada title to those won in Dubai, Sao Paulo and Atlanta this season. The Series-leading Kiwis defeated upstart Russia 29-10 in the championship game to extend their winning streak to 36 games.

New Zealand trailed just once all weekend, against England in the semifinal, and that lead was extinguished in less than a minute. The women in black outscored their opposition 186-65 in six games, celebrating with a post-championship haka.

New Zealand's overall record is 70-5-2 since the women's series began in 2012. It has not lost since February 2014.

The scrappy Russians upset Australia and France to reach their first ever Cup final, with coach Pavel Baranovskiy bellowing instructions from the sidelines. During one halftime team talk, the animated Russian looked like he was being attacked by bees as he tried to gee up his players.

After bouncing back from the English loss to thump Fiji 45-0, the Canadians lost 19-12 to the U.S. to finish sixth. It was their first loss to the Americans in the series.

Against England, Canada fell off its game plan and paid for it.

"I think we had enough ball. It's just what we did with it wasn't good enough to get us into the semis," said Tait.

Captain Ashley Steacy said the team had problems managing its energy against England, suggesting emotions got the better of them after a high-flying Day 1.

It marked the first time in 10 events that Canada has not finished in the top four. The Canadians had placed in the top three their last seven outings.

Poor weekend showings by Canada and Australia, which finished seventh, left the Canadians in sole possession of second place with 58 points behind New Zealand (80) in the overall standings, With two stops left, a logjam is developing behind them with Australia (56), France (52), the U.S. (48), England (48) and Russia (46) moving up.

The top four this season qualify automatically for the 2016 Olympics. The rest have to qualify through regional tournaments.

The weekend offered no shortage of highlights.

Canada's Ghislaine Landry led the tournament with 56 points. Steacy, a five-foot-two dynamo who looks like she would fit in your pocket, hit like a jackhammer on defence. And big Canadian forward Kelly Russell left more than a few bruises.

The Fijians (1-4-1) finished eighth but impressed with their entertaining play. Rusila Nagasau's quarter-final try against New Zealand capped off a free-flowing attack that included nine passes and a cheeky dummy pass between the legs.

Strike runners like New Zealand's Portia Woodman, Australia's Ellia Green and England's Joanne Watmore cut through defences like a knife through butter.

The soldout, foot-stomping crowd of 3,400 at Westhills Stadium urged on the home side while politely cheering for the underdog in other matches or just rewarding good play with applause regardless of the shirt.

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