NEWS
01/30/2016 13:59 EST | Updated 01/30/2017 00:12 EST

Hirayama reaches milestone in Wellington but Canada loses two of three matches

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Nathan Hirayama scored his 50th career try on the world rugby sevens circuit in a losing cause Saturday as Canada went 1-2 on the first day of the HSBC Wellington Sevens.

Hirayama reached the milestone in a 26-22 loss to Australia, that was sandwiched between a 31-7 loss to Kenya and 42-7 win over Portugal.

Canada finished third in Pool D, missing out on the elite Cup quarter-finals for the third time this season. Coach Liam Middleton's team will face Russia in the Consolation Bowl quarter-finals Sunday. 

Australia, Fiji, England and defending champion New Zealand topped their pools.

Harry Jones scored Canada's lone try against Kenya. Hirayama, Adam Zaruba, Pat Kay and Phil Mack, with his 91st career try, crossed for Canada against Australia.

Newcomer Phil Berna opened his sevens circuit account with two tries against Portugal. Zaruba and Admir Cejvanovic also scored two tries apiece for Canada.

New Zealand faced the hardest task to finish atop Pool A, having to beat South Africa which was runner-up in the Sevens World Series in the last three years. Fiji, South Africa, New Zealand and England have qualified for the Olympics tournament after filling the top-four placings in last year's World Series.

Joe Weber scored a try after the final hooter to give New Zealand a 19-14 win over South Africa in the final match of the day which left it unbeaten.

New Zealand plays Kenya, South Africa meets Australia, England faces Argentina and Fiji plays the United States in Sunday's Cup quarter-finals.

South Africa seemed to have clinched victory in a see-sawing match against New Zealand when Cheslin Kolbe scored just before full-time off an error by All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams. Williams attempted one of his trademark offloads but the ball fell to South Africa who put the agile Kolbe into space.

Seconds after conceding Kolbe's try and after South Africa conceded a series of penalties to keep the clock ticking after the final siren, Williams provided a more assured offload which cracked the defence and from which Joe Webber scored the winning try.

The selection of Williams was seen as a coup for the New Zealand team in the Olympic year but, while he scored a try in his opening match, he at times looked lost in sevens rugby which requires pace and spontaneity — neither his strong suit.

Defending world series champion Fiji dominated Pool B with wins over Japan, Wales and Argentina and heads into the quarter-finals as the tournament favourite. Fiji beat Japan 45-7, Wales 33-7 and made sure it topped the pool when it beat Argentina 31-10.

England faced a tight struggle to top Pool C after a shock late loss to Samoa. Samoa had lost its first two matches in the pool to the United States and France while England beat France 17-14 in the opening match of the day and the United States 19-5.

The Samoans opened a 17-0 lead by halftime then held out a stout England rally to win the match, though they failed to progress to the Cup quarter-finals.

A young Australian team won Pool D to emerge as a strong threat in the quarter-finals. But it had a scare in its opening match of the day when it found itself trailing Portugal 12-0 before rallying to win 19-12. It went on to beat Canada and Fiji 17-12.

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With files from The Associated Press.

The Canadian Press