SPORTS

Canada falls to U.S. at NACRA Sevens rugby tournament, fails to qualify for Rio

06/14/2015 10:01 EDT | Updated 06/14/2016 05:59 EDT
CARY, N.C. - Canada missed out on rugby sevens Olympic qualification after falling 21-5 to the United States at the NACRA Sevens Cup final on Sunday.

The U.S., as the winner of the Cup, guaranteed itself a place at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

Canada, which won its first two games of the day before losing to the U.S., has one final chance to qualify for the Games via the repechage tournament, which will take place next year and will feature a number of teams from around the world seeking the 12th and final men's sevens spot.

"We've got close to a year to prepare for that," said Canadian coach Liam Middleton. "I think the progress we made over the last six months, if we translate that over the next 12 months, I think we will be in a good position."

The Americans built a 21-0 first half lead before Canada began to shut down the Eagles' many offensive weapons. Harry Jones scored Canada's lone try, but time ran out on the comeback bid as 3,000 jubilant fans chanted "U.S.A., U.S.A.," as the full-time whistle went.

Middleton was disappointed by how the first half went. He felt that had they converted a trip close to the line by first year player Adam Zaruba, things might have played out differently.

"That one ball to Zaruba, he might have gotten us going in the first half and that would have built our confidence and then it is 7-0 or 7-7 a few minutes into the game," he said.

The U.S. looked dangerous all weekend long, not allowing a try to be scored through their three pool matches and the Cup semifinal. The U.S. dispatched Jamaica 40-5 on Sunday morning, and then ran roughshod over the Cayman Islands 64-0 to get to the Cup final.

Canada had to play one extra game due to a State department problem with the Visas for St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The U.S., meanwhile, enjoyed a bye for the schedule match that became a forfeit.

Canada played its last pool game on Sunday morning, downing the Cayman Islands 36-0 with Mike Fuailefau scoring two tries for the Canadians. They then handled Mexico 34-0 in the Cup semifinal thanks to a hat trick of tries from John Moonlight — two of which came in the first period.

A dejected Canadian team captain John Moonlight said the Cup final loss came down to a handful of unforced errors.

"(The U.S.) just capitalized on the mistakes we made," the Pickering, Ont., native said. "In the first half we made five errors and they turned that into three tries.

"You can't fault the work rate of the boys, they left it all on the field."

The U.S. struck early as speed merchant Perry Baker kicked into high gear after Danny Barrett scooped up a loose Canadian pass and took the ball under the posts. Tries came in quick succession from Barrett and Maka Unufe that ultimately saw the Americans clear for the remainder of the game.

Despite two yellow cards to the U.S., Canada struggled to maintain consistent possession and handling errors dogged them all game long.

The U.S. women beat Mexico 88-0 in its Cup final to also qualify for the Olympics. Canada's women's team qualified after winning the Amsterdam Sevens in May and finishing second on the World Rugby Women's Sevens Series.

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