VANCOUVER - A convincing 47-5 win over Uruguay wasn't enough to move Canada into Cup competition at the HSBC Canada Sevens Rugby Saturday.
Canada finished the opening day of competition with a 1-1-1 record for third place in Pool A. The top two qualifiers from the four pools advance to Sunday's quarterfinals.
Canada went into Saturday's final game at BC Place Stadium knowing it needed to beat Uruguay by a wide margin, then hope the U.S. beat Australia.
Things looked to be going Canada's way when the Americans led 21-7 at half time but Australia scored 24 unanswered points for a 31-21 victory.
"It's a cruel game," said Canadian coach Damian McGrath. "They did everything that was asked of them in that last game.
"It shows what we can do but it's the results that count. We just can't seem to get over the line when we need to."
Canada suffered a heartbreaking 28-21 loss to the U.S. and managed a nail-biting 19-19 draw with Australia in its other games. The loss to the U.S. was made particularly frustrating because of a late mistake that allowed the Americans to score the go-ahead try.
McGrath saw plenty of positives on Canada's play.
"It's disappointing but nobody has died," he said. "We've lost, and we haven't qualified, but I think what we've done is shown the Canadian public that Canadian rugby is strong, and we have some great players."
Canada started slowly against Uruguay, giving up an early try. The Canadians battled back with John Moonlight and Justin Douglas scoring two tries each. Nathan Hirayama contributed 17 points from a try and six converts.
"We showed flashes for sure," said Douglas. "We showed we can compete with anybody. That's been a big thing for us, consistency."
The best Canada can finish is ninth.
The first day of competition attracted a noisy sellout crowd of 39,000 who waved flags and blew horns. There was all manner of costumes. Several pandas watched the action near a couple rows of Elvis impersonators. Some Vikings rubbed shoulders with a several astronauts. There was a group dressed in loud red suits and various furry animals.
Tied 21-21 against the U.S., Hirayama attempted a kick to touch. Instead of going out of bounds the ball bounced around and was grabbed by an American player.
Canada managed to defend and speedy American Perry Baker, considered one of the best players in the world, was almost tackled in the end zone, which would have ended the game. Instead he wriggled free. The ball ended up in Kevon Williams hands and he raced the field for the winning points.
"We're pretty gutted," said Canada's Connor Braid after the loss. "Sometimes you get the bounce of the ball, sometimes you don't."
Canada led 14-0 early in the game before Baker scored two tries.
"He was the difference between the teams," said McGrath. "He digs them out of trouble so many times and so often."
Against Australia, the Canadians gave up a try just 13 seconds into the match and trailed late in the game. But with the final seconds ticking off the clock, forward Moonlight took a pass from Hirayama and outraced a defender to the end zone.
McGrath was pleased with the resiliency his team showed after following behind early.
"That Canadian grit is often used as a throw away term, but I think you saw it today," he said. "This teams has got grit and determination."
The Canada Sevens is the sixth stop on the 10-country HSBC World Rugby Seven Series.
Australia finished first in Pool A with a 2-0-1 record, followed by the U.S. at 2-1-0. Uruguay was 0-3 after losing 45-0 to the U.S., and 50-17 to Australia.
In Pool B, England, Argentina and Samoa all finished with 2-1-0 records. Wales was 0-0-3. England and Argentina advanced because of better point differentials.
Fiji (3-0-0) finished first in Pool C followed by Kenya (2-1-0), France (0-2-1) and Spain (0-2-1).
New Zealand was undefeated in Pool D followed by South Africa at 2-1-0. Russia was 1-2-0 and Scotland 0-0-3.
South Africa came into the weekend leading the series with 92 points, followed by New Zealand with 82, Fiji 79 and Australia 72. Canada is ranked 11th with 35 points.
In Rugby Sevens, teams of seven players play two, seven-minute halves. Traditional rugby has 15 players playing 40-minute halves.