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Canada endures Hong Kong heartbreaker, losing consolation game in overtime

New Zealand's DJ Forbes, center, is tackled by Fiji's Semi Kunatani, left, and Isake Katonibau during their final match at the Hong Kong Sevens rugby tournament in Hong Kong, Sunday, April 10, 2016. Fiji won 21-7. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
April 10, 2016 - 8:04 AM

HONG KONG - Canada endured another heartbreaker at the Hong Kong Sevens on Sunday, losing 19-14 in overtime to Russia in the consolation Shield final to finish 14th.

A tournament that started with Canada coming within two minutes of upsetting Series leader Fiji for only the third time in 43 matches ended with more disappointment as the Canadian men wasted a 14-7 halftime lead and ultimately fell victim to a Vladislav Lazarenko try.

Fiji, which rallied to beat Canada 19-17 on Friday,, successfully defended its Hong Kong title by a 21-7 score in a scrappy, tight final Sunday against New Zealand.

Canada remained 13th in the overall standings after seven stops on the 10-event rugby sevens circuit. Russia stands 15th.

After going 1-2 on the first two days of play, Canada stumbled out of the blocks Sunday in a 19-10 loss to Samoa. Trailing 19-0 at the half, Canada roared back on tries by Nathan Hirayama and Mike Fuailefau but fell short.

The two teams could well meet again at a last-ditch Olympic qualifier in Monaco in June.

Canada rebounded to beat Portugal 19-5 on tries by Fuailefau, Conor Trainor and captain John Moonlight. Fuailefau and Moonlight also scored in the loss to Russia.

The tournament final wasn't sealed until just over a minute was left when New Zealand, trailing 14-7, attacked into the Fiji 22 but was driven off ruck ball by Pio Tuwai. Amenoni Nasilasila passed launched the counterattack, and was the pivot in a loop around by Semi Kunitani, who ran 40 metres untouched to between the posts.

That's when Fiji started celebrating its record-extending 16th Hong Kong crown, and fourth in five years. New Zealand, second-best in Hong Kong with 11 wins, lost the final for a second straight year.

"It was a tight final and I thought our defence was very good," Fiji coach Ben Ryan said. "We made the right decisions at the breakdown.

"I don't think they were ever going to stop us scoring tries. We just needed to stop them scoring, and for the majority of the game our defence was very good."

New Zealand scored first through Pita Ahki, whose sidestepping turned Jerry Tuwai inside and out.

But Tuwai had the score level by halftime when he broke out from his own quarter, kicked ahead, and put New Zealand under severe pressure. Tuwai quick-tapped a penalty and dived over.

Into the second half, the marking remained tight, the tackles hard, and there was no leeway in the rucks.

The Fijians went ahead when they caught New Zealand's defence too narrow, giving an overlap to Kitione Taliga, who was too fast to catch.

The turnover and Kunitani finished off the 14th Hong Kong final between the sevens archrivals, with Fiji winning for the ninth time.

The top four in the world series made the semifinals, leaving the race still open with three events to go. Fiji led by five points from New Zealand, which was one point ahead of South Africa. Australia was 23 points off the pace.

Fiji's belief was boosted by last-second wins over Canada in the pool stage, and Kenya in the quarter-finals. Meanwhile, New Zealand beat South Africa in the semifinals only in the second period of extra time, when Kurt Baker's cross-kick was caught by an unmarked Regan Ware.

The next leg is in Singapore next weekend.

With files from The Associated Press

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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