John Moonlight scored a try in a losing cause Sunday as Canada was beaten 12-7 by Samoa in the Plate final to finish sixth at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
Fiji successfully defended its Hong Kong rugby title by coming from 19-0 down at halftime to beat Wales 26-19 in the final. New Zealand finished third, crushing Kenya 36-5 to lead the series by a healthy 25 points over Fiji, and 29 over Samoa.
For Canada, it was the third straight good showing on the IRB sevens circuit.
They won the Plate in Las Vegas, beating Scotland 22-5 to finish fifth. And they beat Fiji 28-19 in New Zealand en route to winning the Bowl competition for a ninth-place finish.
Canada, defeated 25-6 by Fiji in pool play Saturday, opened Sunday with a 28-14 quarter-final loss to the Welsh. Moonlight and Nathan Hirayama scored tries for the Canadians, who were tied 14-14 at the half. Canada then defeated Portugal 19-4 to advance to the Plate final.
Samoa jumped out into a 12-0 lead before Moonlight put Canada on the board.
The performance in the sixth stop on the sevens circuit moved Canada up one place to ninth in the series standings. The top 12 after eight events secure their core status for next season. Teams 13 through 15 have to retain their spot via a promotion tournament.
In the Cup final, substitute Osea Kolinisau starred with three tries but Fiji’s record-extending 12th Hong Kong title was tinged by controversy.
Halfway through a first half dominated by first-time finalist Wales, Lee Williams was spear-tackled onto his head by Ilai Tinai, who was lucky to be carded yellow and not red. In Tinai’s absence, Wales scored its third try and was in command by the break.
But Fiji’s replacements paid off, with a three-try blitz in less than three minutes. Kolinisau went over a minute after the restart, weaved past three defenders for his second, and Samisoni Viriviri scored from the kickoff to even the score.
With a minute left, a tap penalty from inside Fiji’s half ended with Kolinisau scoring the winning try, converted by Emosi Mulevoro.
The result was a perfect kickstart to Fiji’s centenary year celebrations. The team entered under a cloud after captain Setefano Cakau ruptured ligaments in his left knee during training last week, but won successive Hong Kong titles for the first time since 1999.
Fiji also became the first two-time winner in the sevens world series this season after six tournaments.
Overall, Fiji jumped from fourth to second in the series standings behind arch foe New Zealand, which Fiji also rallied to beat in the semifinals 33-14 from 14-0 behind.
The Tokyo Sevens will take place next weekend. Canada has been drawn in a pool with New Zealand, Japan and France.