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Canada thrills BC Place crowds with historic rugby sevens bronze

West Vancouver's Harry Jones named to tournament's Dream Team as Canada scores best finish on home soil
West Vancouver's Harry Jones celebrates a try against Australia on day two of the HSBC Canada Sevens 2020 at BC Place Stadium Sunday. photo Mike Lee - KLC fotos for World Rugby

Canada national men’s rugby sevens team went through heartbreak and triumph on their way to a historic third place finish at the HSBC Canada Sevens event held Saturday and Sunday in BC Place in Vancouver.

West Vancouver’s Harry Jones was front and centre for Canada during the tournament, scoring a try in the bronze medal match as Canada topped South Africa 26-19 to earn the team’s first ever World Rugby Sevens Series medal on home soil. The team’s previous best finish at the Vancouver tournament was a seventh-place showing in 2018, and this was Canada’s first Sevens Series podium finish since winning gold in Singapore in 2017.

"The bodies are hurting but the crowd did it for us,” Jones said after Canada withstood a late barrage from South Africa to seal the podium finish. “[The crowd] pushed us in the final few minutes to hold on. It was amazing."

Team Canada was electric all weekend, beating three of the top-four ranked teams in the world as 74,560 fans packed BC Place for the annual event.  

Team Canada celebrates a historic bronze medal finish at the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournament held Saturday and Sunday at BC Place. photo Mike Lee - KLC fotos for World Rugby

Canada went undefeated on Day 1, beating France and Fiji – ranked No. 4 and No. 3, respectively – as well as Wales to finish first in their pool. They then blanked Spain 21-0 Sunday to open the playoff round, booking a berth in the semifinals where they’d take on Australia.

In the semis Jones opened the scoring with a fifth-minute try, making an easy catch on the goal line after a long run from Nathan Hirayama, but the Aussies battled back with three straight scores to take a 19-7 lead. Canada’s Mike Fuailefau scored late in the game to set up a dramatic finish that saw Theo Sauder tackled at the goal line, stretching to score what could have been the match-winning try. The play went to instant replay, however, and the decision was that the ball touched down just before crossing the line.

"I wish my arm was one inch longer," said Sauder, a Vancouver native.

In the bronze medal game against No. 3-ranked South Africa, Jones finished off a quick team attack with no time left in the first half to tie the score at 14-14. In the second half Justin Douglas scored his second of the match and Hirayama added a try to open a 12-point lead, but Australia attacked hard to score a late try and was pushing for another to earn a tie or win when the final whistle went, sending the crowd into a frenzy.  

"We've been on a path since last August," said Team Canada coach Henry Paul. "It's going in the right direction. We're still finding out a little bit about ourselves."

In the final top-ranked New Zealand beat Australia 17-14.

Jones and Hirayama were two of the seven players named to the HSBC Dream Team for the tournament, joining New Zealand’s Tim Mikkelson and Caleb Clarke, Australia’s Lachie Anderson and Lachie Miller, and South Africa’s Miller Du Plessis.

Next up for the men will be London May 23-24 and Paris May 30-31.  

- with files from Canadian Press