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Canadian rugby men earn season-best result at France 7s ahead of relegation playoff

Canada ran into a buzz saw in Argentina and lost to host France but still concluded fourth at the HSBC Sevens on Sunday, its best finish on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series this season.

The performance in Toulouse was a timely boost for the 14th-ranked Canadian men who now move to a relegation playoff next weekend in London to save their status as a core team next season.

The Canadians, whose best showing previously this season was a 10th place in the opening stop in Hong Kong, lost 33-5 to No. 2 Argentina in the semifinal before falling 28-12 to No. 3 France.

A diving try at the corner flag by Roderick Solo in extra time gave No. 1 New Zealand a 24-19 victory over No. 2 Argentina in the men’s championship game. It marked the All Blacks’ 67th career tournament win on the World Series.

In the women’s final, No. 1 New Zealand rallied from a 14-5 halftime deficit to down the third-ranked U.S. 19-14 for its sixth straight tournament win. The New Zealand women finished runner-up in the season opener in Dubai.

The finale of the seventh and final stop of the women’s circuit marked just the third time this season the Black Ferns sevens squad had trailed going into a second half.

No. 2 Australia defeated No. 4 France 33-7 in the bronze-medal match. The Canadian women concluded 10th after losing 15-14 to Spain in their final outing Sunday, dropping one spot below Japan to ninth overall.

Both Canadian teams will now focus on the Rugby Americas North Sevens Olympic qualifier in Langford, B.C., in August.

By reaching the men’s final in Toulouse, New Zealand clinched the World Series season title with one event left on the 11-stop season. Argentina and No. 4 Fiji joined New Zealand in earning qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympics by assuring themselves of a top-four finish in the season standings.

Australia, Samoa and South Africa will go after the final automatic Olympic berth next week in London.

The All Blacks have dominated the men’s circuit with podium finishes in eight of the 10 events, including previous tournament wins in Sydney, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Singapore.

On the women’s side, Ireland joined New Zealand, Australia and the U.S. in booking its ticket to the 2024 Olympics.

With the men’s World Series field being cut to 12 from 16 next season, No. 12 Uruguay, No. 13 Kenya, No. 14 Canada and Tonga, the 2023 Challenger Series winner, will meet in London to decide who becomes the 12th core team next season. Japan, as the 15th place team after Toulouse, has been relegated already.

Uruguay came to Toulouse in 11th spot, holding a slender one-point lead over Spain in the race to avoid the playoff. But the Spaniards placed above the South Americans in Toulouse to consign them to the relegation playoff, with Canada playing its part by blanking Uruguay 26-0 in pool play Friday.

The Canadian men went ahead in the third-place game with Jack Carson reaching over to touch down after being tackled just short of the try-line, capping a Canadian attack that started from a lineout after a penalty to France.

France led 7-5 at the break on a converted try from Aaron Grandidier after the Canadian defense was busted open. The French increased the lead early in the second half with Jordan Sepho scoring under the post after outracing the Canadian defense down the touchline.

The speedy Brock Webster cut the lead to 14-12 with a try under the posts after corralling the ball at the restart. The French answered with a move that started deep in its own territory before Grandidier found a hole in the Canadian defense for a 24-12 lead with two minutes left. Jonathan Laugel added an insurance try for a 28-12 win.

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