Canadian in narrow loss to Samoa at USA rugby Sevens in Las Vegas

A Canada comeback fell just short in a 26-19 loss to Samoa on Saturday, consigning the Canadian men to the consolation Challenge Trophy part of the draw at the HSBC USA Sevens.

Trailing 19-7 at the half and needing a win to reach the Cup quarter-finals, Canada (0-2-1) fought back on a pair of second-half Nate Hirayama tries to tie the game at 19-19. But Alamanda Motuga scored the late winning try as Samoa, once again, found holes in the Canadian defence.

Things got interesting when Samoa’s Joe Perez was yellow-carded as time wore down for a dangerous tackle on Connor Braid. Canada launched one last attack, laying siege on the Samoa goal-line. The Pacific Islanders were penalized for offside, giving Canada another chance but the game ended with a Canadian infraction at the breakdown.

The Canadian men, who tied No. 8 Spain 12-12 and lost 33-19 to No. 1 New Zealand on Friday, came into Las Vegas 11th in the overall standings, just behind No. 10 Samoa.

Later Saturday, Canada lost 21-19 to No. 7 Scotland in the Challenge Trophy quarterfinals.

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Jake Thiel, Harry Jones and Braid scored tries for Canada. Hirayama added two conversions.

Max McFarland scored two tries and captain Robbie Fergusson added another for Scotland, which led at the 14-5 at the half. Gavin Lowe booted three conversions.

There was controversy as Jones touched down with the clock about to expire. Jones yelled at the referee that Canada would forgo the conversion, so as to try for one more score off the kickoff. His request was not allowed and time ran out.

Canada will play No. 12 France in the 13th-place semifinal Sunday.

The final eight saw New Zealand versus Fiji, South Africa versus the U.S., Australia versus Samoa and Argentina versus England.

Canada, which has made the Cup quarterfinals just once in five tournaments this season, had hoped for a good showing at Sam Boyd Stadium to build momentum for the Vancouver stop on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series next weekend — and to get a more favourable draw on home soil.

Elisapeta Alofipo had two tries and John Vaili added a single for Samoa. Tila Mealoi kicked two conversions and Murphy Paulo added one.

Luke McCloskey had Canada’s other try. Hirayama added two conversions.

So far this season, the Canadian men have tied for 11th in Dubai, Cape Town and Sydney. They tied for seventh in Hamilton, New Zealand.

A two-month labour dispute ahead of the season did little for the team’s preparation. More recently, inclement weather has made Langford, B.C., a less than hospitable training base.

Injuries have also taken a toll.

Coach Damian McGrath is missing speedster Justin Douglas (concussion) and Lucas Hammond (ankle). Pat Kay and Cole Davis were late withdrawals in Las Vegas.

Jones, sidelined by a shoulder injury since the Rugby World Cup Sevens in July 2018, and Admir Cejvanovic returned to the lineup.

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