LONDON - Alex Russell scored with one minute remaining in Sunday's dramatic 12-7 victory over Kenya in the relegation play-off final to lift the Canadians to first place in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens series. Maintain the state of the core group.
Kenya is down to six men left, with John Okio out of next season's elite seven amid international strikes. Canada lives to fight another day.
The win capped off a tense weekend at Twickenham Stadium, with the Canadian dodging a few bullets.
"It feels great. It feels like we should be there," said a smiling Canadian captain, Phil Berna.
The four-team relegation play-off – part of the HSBC London 7s, the 11th and final leg of the men's season – is a product of the World Series, with the number of men's teams being reduced from 16 to 12 next season to compete with ladies The game remains the same, Olympic stadium.
Japan, in 15th place, were relegated after last weekend's game in Toulouse, France. That leaves Uruguay in 12th place, Kenya in 13th place, Canada in 14th place and Tonga, the champions of the World Rugby Sevens Challengers Series, in the round-robin playoffs.
Canada will be the 12th base team for the 2024 World Series, while the other three teams will have to compete in their respective regional sevens tournaments to qualify for the 2024 Contenders Series and return to the top flight.
Japan is invited to the 12-team tournament outside the relegation play-offs in London.
Captain Nelson Oyoo opened the scoring for Kenya, who took advantage of a deflected Canadian shot to take a 7–0 lead. With 2:49 left in the first half, there was a long delay due to an injury to Kenyan speedster Kevin Wekesa, who made six tries on Saturday before cautiously taking the .
Josiah Morra tied it with a conversion attempt in overtime before halftime after 6ft 240lb Matt Oworu beat a Kenyan tackle and knocked him out. Tony Omody (Tony Omody) was subsequently sidelined to be assessed for head injuries.
The Africans had one last chance to attack, but the move resulted in a penalty kick deep in their own territory.
The Canadian men's team made its World Series debut in 1999-2000 and has been a fixture on the tour since 2012-2013. London marks its 190th race. Kenya has been in the first team since 2004-05.
Canada, Kenya and Uruguay finished 2-1-0 in relegation match with Uruguay losing the final on points. Canada scored 33 points, Kenya 13 points and Uruguay 5 points. Tonga finished the game 0-3-0.
Kenya handed Canada a heartbreaking 19-24 defeat on Saturday, taking the lead on an effort from Edmund Anya with less than 30 seconds left. That drops the Canadians to 3-5-0 against Kenya this season.
Canada needed a dramatic 21-19 victory over Uruguay in Game 2 on Saturday, allowing Brock Webster to score a late try and convert to keep hope alive.
Needing a win over Tonga to reach the final, the Canadian answered the call with a convincing 43-7 win on seven tries on Sunday morning. Jack Carson and Russell each scored three goals.
It was a one-way drive with Canada dominating the restart, leading 26-0 before the Pacific Islanders went in and 26-7 at halftime.
The Kenyans are coached by England's Damian McGrath, who coached Canada in 2017 when they beat the United States 26-19 in the final in Singapore for their only World Series victory.
Losing the World Series would be devastating to the Canadian program.
At a time when Canadian rugby promotes players who play between 7-a-side and 15-a-side to increase depth and provide more playing options, it would be a serious blow to retire from the sport. Not to mention increasing the difficulty of qualifying for the Olympics.
After a season-best celebration last week in Toulouse, France, the Canadians arrived in London on a high, defeating Uruguay (26-0) and Kenya (33-7).
The Canadian's best pre-season finish was 10th in the opening race in Hong Kong. They then finished 11th, 14th (five times) and tied for 15th (twice) coming to London with an 18-39 record on the season.
The Canadian has rebuilt after the mass exodus after the Tokyo Olympics. The season started somewhat unsettled, with head coach Henry Paul resigning at the end of November after the season started. Former Canadian Sevens and 15s international Sean White takes over as interim coach.
Tonga have played in two previous matches this season in Sydney and Hamilton, New Zealand, as an invite-only team. They finished with 12 points, just two short of Canada's total from their previous five games.
Uruguay must beat Kenya on Sunday by at least eight points to qualify for the play-off final. Uruguay won 14-10, but a late shot and a Kenyan penalty proved enough to keep the Africans off.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for Uruguay, which is 11th in the table, one point ahead of 12th-placed Spain. But Spain, by seven points above France, two more than Uruguay, moved ahead of South America in the standings and escaped the relegation play-offs by one point.
Uruguay reached the quarter-finals of the Cup in both Cape Town and Singapore in their first season as the first team. Canada has only reached the quarter-finals once in Toulouse.
There were other things to settle on Sunday, with New Zealand already top of the World Series, Argentina in second and Fiji in fourth joining the All Blacks in qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics by securing their first place. -Four finishes this season.
With third-placed France France, the race for an automatic place in the tournament came down to fifth-placed Australia (125 points) or sixth-placed Samoa (116 points). Seventh seed South Africa (116 games) failed to qualify for the quarter-finals of the cup.
After losing 19-5 to Fiji in the quarter-finals of the cup, Australia lost 22-19 to France in the fifth semi-final on Paulin Riva's last second attempt. This opened the door for Samoa knowing that a Cup semi-final victory over Argentina would secure Olympic qualification.
Samoa took an early 7-0 lead, but Argentina took a 10-7 lead in the closing moments, with Vaa Apelo Malikos advancing the line in the dying seconds to kill Samoa's last ditch effort. Australia then booked their ticket to Paris with a 34-7 victory over seventh-ranked Great Britain.
Olympic champions Fiji defeated New Zealand 19-17 in the other semi-final, a repeat of the Tokyo Olympics final.
A try from Taunuu Niulevaea in extra time gave Samoa a 24-19 upset over the All Blacks, who had won five of their previous six games for a consolation bronze medal. New Zealand was on the podium for the ninth time this season.
Bronze medalists Argentina defeated Fiji 35-14 in the cup final.
The women's seven-race season ended in Toulouse, where the Canadian finished ninth.
Both Canadian teams will compete in the North Sevens Rugby Americas Olympic Qualifier in Langford, British Columbia in August.
The Canadian Press report was first published on May 21, 2023.