Nicholas helps Canada earn Olympic rugby sevens berth

It took longer than expected, but Canada's women's rugby sevens team is heading back to the Olympics.

Article content

By Patrick Johnston

It took longer than expected, but Canada’s women’s rugby sevens team is heading back to the Olympics.

The Canadians went 2-1 on the first day of the Biarritz Sevens in France to secure a quarter-final spot at the final event on the 2018-19 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.

Making the quarter-finals guaranteed they’d finish the season in a top-four position on the overall standings to automatically qualify for next year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Blenheim’s Breanne Nicholas won a bronze medal as Canada went 2-1 again in the playoffs Sunday.

Canada beat Spain 19-14 in the third-place game after losing to New Zealand 21-12 in a semifinal and beating France 12-5 in a quarter-final.

The Canadians trailed 14-12 in the bronze-medal game until Nicholas blocked a kick by the Spaniards in the final minute. Charity Williams picked up the ball and scored the winning try, then Nicholas kicked her second convert of the game.


Story continues below

Article content

Canada placed third in the overall standings with 94 points. New Zealand was first with 110 and the United States had 100.

At the end of Saturday’s play, Canadian coach John Tait admitted he was relieved that the Olympic spot had been clinched.

“But also excited where this team will be in another 12 months of growth together,” he said via text message.

Under Tait, the Canadians won the bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where rugby sevens made its Olympic debut. In the three years since, Tait has cycled through a number of young players, with his eyes towards creating a squad deep enough to take gold in Japan.

The Canadians could have secured their 2020 spot at last month’s hometown tournament in Langford, B.C., but stumbled and finished fifth.

In Biarritz, Tait’s team opened their day with a narrow 22-19 win over Spain. Nicholas scored the winning try, foiling the Spaniards’ attempt to come back from a 17-0 deficit.

The Canadians defeated Ireland 27-10 in their second game, scoring five tries after the Irish opened the game with two tallies in the first four minutes.

The final game of the day saw the Canadians lose 27-14 to their archrivals, the Australians.

“Disappointed in the Oz game, soft turnovers versus them too often but am pretty happy we took one of the automatic qualifying spots, our main goal for the season,” Tait said.

– With files from the Chatham Daily News

News Near Chatham

This Week in Flyers