Photo by Paige Stewart
Photo by Paige Stewart

Canada’s Women’s Rugby Sevens Olympic team will be playing for a medal in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro after advancing to the semifinals in rugby sevens following a 15-5 win over France in the quarterfinals. Canada will face Australia in the semifinals, the top ranked team in the world.

After coming away with two victories on day one action at Deodoro stadium in Rio, Canada dropped their final pool match on Sunday, a 22-0 loss to Great Britain. The loss meant Canada finished second in Pool C, setting up the quarterfinal tilt with France later on Sunday.

The win over France was a bit of redemption for Canada, who last played the French side at the Langford Sevens in April, losing in the cup quarterfinals in the dying seconds in front of their home crowd.

After both teams traded possession in the first few minutes of play, it was France who struck first, jumping out to a 5-0 lead three minutes in. Kayla Moleschi answered for Canada, picking the ball up from the back of a scrum, faking out a French defender then using her speed to go the rest of the way as the teams headed into half tied 5-5.

Canada came out of the halftime huddle looking like a more confident team and played as such for the remaining seven minutes. They controlled ball possession while continuously preventing any offensive attack from France.

Under relentless pressure, the French defensive line finally cracked with 90 seconds to play, as Bianca Farella scored a try to give Canada a 10-5 lead. Ghislaine Landry added some insurance just as the hooter was sounding and Canada were off to the semifinals with a 10-point win.

Earlier in the day Great Britain put in a strong performance to beat a Canadian side that battled mistakes throughout the match. After beating Japan 45-0 and Brazil 38-0 on day one of pool play, Canada looked like a different side on Sunday morning; dropping balls, missing tackles, turning the ball over at an unusual rate.

While both teams looked nervous in the opening minutes, it was Great Britain who finally touched down with the first try of the match almost four minutes in.

With Canada pressing for an equalizer in the closing seconds of the half, it was Great Britain causing a turnover near their tryline and going the length of the pitch to make it a 10-0 halftime deficit for the Canadians. Great Britain would add two more tries in the second half to make it 22-0 as they claimed first place in Pool C.

“I haven’t seen us play like that, make that many drops since probably the final back in Brazil against Australia (in February),” said coach John Tait. “When you’re chasing a game against a quality side like we were this morning against Great Britain, you start throwing 50-50 passes and those turn into tries as well. Tonight [against France] I think was a bit of nerves from the way we played against Great Britain, the girls were a bit anxious about that. I was really pleased again that even though we went down 5-0, they responded and really kept the ball and looked after it well and punched in a couple tries to respond.”

Tait added: “We get Australia in the semifinal. Obviously another familiar opponent. We just can’t afford to make turnovers like we did in the two games today. They’ll punish any team for that many turnovers. It will come down to our possession against them and really challenging them through the middle…we’ll see what mismatches we can create on the outside.”

“Day one we gelled really well but you’re not playing the top teams in the world so you’re going to look like you really preformed,” said captain Jenn Kish. “Day two, as you can see, we made too many errors. Great Britain got the win over us. France is a good quality side, we made some mistakes and they capitalized on that. But, we didn’t give up. We kept fighting. We brushed it off and as you can see we walked away with the win today so I’m very excited and very proud of these girls.”

“Our dream is getting more real. We want to be in that gold medal match. That’s why we’re here. But, if we walk away with a medal we’re still going to be happy. The medal is just icing on the cake. We’re here to perform, we’re here to show the world that Canadian rugby is a contender in this sport and I really hope that the fans see that.”

Canada plays Australia tomorrow(Monday) – 1:30 pm ET / 10:30 am PT.