Two minutes. It can feel like a lifetime or go by far too quickly, depending upon whether your team is ahead or behind.
In sevens rugby, a mistake here or there can happen in the blink of an eye and alter the outcome of a game. Canada’s women’s team knows that reality all too well and experienced it last weekend at Westhills Stadium, when they outscored their opponents 129-19 and went 5-1 but wound up in fifth place.
Canada finished strongly, defeating Spain 21-5 in the Plate final Sunday afternoon after a 27-0 thumping of Russia in the semis. But everyone was still talking about the one that got away – the 14-12 Cup quarter-final loss to France that morning in which Canada led 12-0 with two minutes to go then gave up two converted tries, the last one coming with no time left on the clock.
“We had a great day one (3-0), but that quarter-final really got us,” said Kayla Moleschi, the Williams Lake Hustlers rugby product who scored a try in the France game. “But it’s how you bounce back from it. We took it to the next two teams with two wins and ultimately that’s what we’ve got to do is show our resiliency. Obviously next time we’re not going to make that two-minute mistake like we did in the quarter-final.”
Converted tries from Ghislaine Landry and Hannah Darling gave Canada a 14-0 lead at halftime against Spain, then Britt Benn added to the lead with a try of her own. Spain scored late to prevent Canada from recording its fifth shutout in six games.
Canada head coach John Tait was smiling after his players had a chance to make a circuit around the edge of the field to thank the fans for their support. But he called the day “frustrating” for the way things played out.
“Really, we just lost the one game and really only played two bad minutes the whole tournament. But that’s the beauty of sevens, the key moment when you come apart can be your undoing and can be the difference between playing in the finals and playing for the Plate or Bowl.”
England, beat 5-0 by Canada in a tremendous defensive battle in pool play on Saturday, ran the table Sunday and won three straight games, including the Cup final 31-14 over New Zealand.
The tournament results, which also saw three-time 2016 Cup winner Australia down France 19-12 for third, tightened up the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series standings somewhat.
Leader Australia (76 points) has a comfortable 12-point lead on the second place Kiwis with just the France tournament left to play. But England’s win vaulted it past Canada into third with 60 points, four back of New Zealand. France gained a couple points on Canada to pull within six of fourth spot.
Asked whether this weekend’s results indicate a tightening of the field heading toward the 2016 Rio Olympics, Tait said it did, but also that much of what happens depends on injuries, for his team and others.
“(England has their full squad out right out,” he said. “You’re looking at the Great Britain team for the Olympics. So our girls have confidence that we’re learning how to defend against these sides. And if we can add a little more to our attack and … looking after the ball at key times and managing the clock a little bit better ahead of Rio, then I think we’re going in in pretty good shape.”
Tait said injuries to key individuals have meant the remaining starters have had to play a lot more minutes in the Series thus far. But he noted that younger players such as Charity Williams and Darling played admirably when called upon in Langford. They and other up and comers in the program will get a chance to gain more match experience at a tournament in London the week before the final leg on the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series in France, May 28 and 29.
While the fifth-place finish was admittedly not what they hoped for, Moleschi said the Langford tournament provided many positive signs.
“Our big takeaway from this weekend is starving (opponents) of possession,” she said. “We did it all weekend and it was just those two minutes that it came down to that we slipped up a bit. But we’re looking forward to showing that in France and showing that again at the Olympics.”
HOW CANADA DID
Results from the Canada Women’s Sevens, April 16-17, Westhills Stadium
Day 1 (pool play):
Canada 38 Japan 0 — Try scorers for Canada (Bianca Farella 2, Karen Paquin, Kayla Moleschi, Britt Benn, Kelly Russell)
Canada 26 Ireland 0 — (Kayla Mack 2, Farella, Russell)
Canada 5 England 0 — (Farella)
Day 2 (playoffs):
France 14 Canada 12 — (Farella, Moleschi)
Canada 27 Russia 0 — (Paquin 2, Charity Williams, Megan Lukan, Benn)
Plate final (fifth-sixth place)
Canada 21 Spain 5 — (Ghislaine Landry, Hannah Darling, Benn)