Canada won two of three games, including a memorable upset of Australia, but failed to advance to the Cup quarter-finals at the inaugural HSBC Canada Sevens rugby tournament Saturday.
The Canadian men, ranked 12th in the overall season standings, bounced back from an opening loss to No. 13 Wales with a 14-12 win over No. 4 Australia. After Australia thumped Wales 49-14, that left Canada needing to beat No. 15 Russia by 30 points in the last Pool B game of the day to make the final eight.
It looked good as the Canadians led 24-5 with some four minutes remaining. But the Russians scored a late try and Canada fell just short of the required margin of victory at 29-12 before a loud crowd at B.C. Place Stadium.
It's the second time in six events this season that Canada has been denied advancing to the Cup quarter-finals on a tiebreaker.
"This is a game of tiny margins, huge heartache. The effort these guys put in to come close and lose out can be heartbreaking," said Canadian coach Liam Middleton.
"It really is a brutal game," echoed Canadian captain John Moonlight.
The Canadians lived and died by the sword Saturday, with their games against Wales and Australia decided by tries with no time remaining.
"Two wins should be enough to get you through," lamented Middleton No. 1 Fiji, No. 2 South Africa and No. 3 New Zealand all finished the day at 3-0-0. There will be joined in the Cup quarter-finals Sunday by Australia, the fifth-ranked Americans, No. 10 Scotland, No. 11 Samoa and Wales.
It will be Fiji versus the U.S., South Africa versus Wales, New Zealand versus Samoa and Australia versus Scotland.
Instead of joining them, Canada will face Brazil, an invitational team, in the consolation Bowl quarter-finals.
The Canadians put themselves behind the 8-ball in dropping their opener 26-19 to Wales on a last-second try after leading 14-0. That essentially meant it had to beat Australia, a team it had only beaten three times in 42 previous meetings on the circuit.
The Canadians did just that thanks to an Adam Zaruba try and Nathan Hirayama conversion with no time left on the clock.
Zaruba, who stands six foot five and weighs 265 pounds, bulled his way over for the decisive try against Australia as the crowd roared him on.
"I feel like most of the time I usually win the physical battle," said the big man. "That's kind of my forte."
Russia was hammered 43-5 by Wales and 52-0 by Australia in the other early Pool B matches Local boy Harry Jones finished the Australia game with a broken nose after a high tackle and also played against Russia, despite a swollen, bent beak.
The 28,000-lower bowl at B.C. Place was sold out, with another 5,000 seats available in the upper bowl. Organizers expect a total crowd of 63,000 over the two days.
"Unreal" was Moonlight's take on the festive crowd, some of whom came in costume.
There were beavers, chefs, cowboys, Lego-heads, lumberjacks, Mounties, pirates, pigs and traffic cones, to name a few. Headgear varied from stars-and-stripes top hats, sombreros and hard hats to Viking helmets and lobster-heads.
As the day wore on, fans partied and danced in the stands.
On the field, it was also non-stop action with the first of 24 games kicking off at 9:30 a.m. local time. As one game ended, the teams for the next match waited in the tunnel to go on. And the squads for the game after that warmed up in the endzone.
There were plenty of individual highlight-reel efforts on the day.
Kenyan Collins Injera scored his 221th career try to move into second place behind Argentina's Santiago Gomez Cora (230) in the World Series record book.
Fellow Kenyan Oscar Ouma left another mark – with a trail of bodies in his wake. American speedster Perry Baker, whose Twitter handle is SpeedStick, showed off his after-burners. And every member of the Series-leading Fijian team – the Harlem Globetrotters of the sport in terms of invention – showed power, pace and the ability to score.
Ever-entertaining Fiji, with five tries from Jasa Veremalua, scored 124 points in its three games, defeating Samoa 38-5, Portugal 62-0 and a stubborn Kenya 24-19.
New Zealand and England showed their teeth in an ill-tempered ruck that led to England's Richard de Carpentier being yellow-carded in a 7-0 win by the Al Blacks.
Sportsmanship is the order of the day normally in sevens, however. Two Scots were sent to the sin-bin in one game for throwing the ball away after stoppages. And when Sam Dickson crunched 35-year-old Julien Candelon with a tackle deemed dangerous and worthy of a yellow card, the All Black was quick to check on the crumpled Frenchman's condition.
Fans got to see several crossover stars from the 15-man game in South Africa's Bryan Habana, a former World Rugby player of the year, as well as All Black Liam Messam and Australia's Quade Cooper.
Saturday marked the first World Series event held indoors, with the roof closed at B.C. Place due to the drizzle outdoors.
The rain did not stop fans from lining up more than an hour before kickoff. When the action started, there were the sounds of bagpipes from the stands as Scotland played South Africa.
Canada lost Sean Duke to a back injury after the Wales games.
Canada's Maple Leafs Red team defeated France 17-5 to win the inaugural Vancouver Rugby Fest elite women's division.