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BlitzBoks choke, as Los Pumas qualify for Olympics

DAY TWO WRAP: Argentina qualified for Paris 2024 and Canada reached its first semifinal of the season, after Day Two of the Paris leg of the Sevens World Series.

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Spain and Uruguay also still can’t decide who will stay a core team for next season.

The Stade Ernest-Wallon enjoyed some great games in the second of three days.

Argentina became the third team to secure their ticket for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris and they did so in style, beating Great Britain 55-0 at the end of pool play, also denying New Zealand the chance of securing the Series title a week earlier, by qualifying to the semifinals.

Canada, in preparation to play in next week’s four-team survival of the fittest tournament, secured an unlikely semifinal spot by beating Australia thanks to their strong defence in the final minutes.

They will play Argentina.

France 7s road to the Final

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The second semifinal will see New Zealand and France earning a very hard wing against Great Britain at the death will ensure the stadium is very loud come semifinals time.

The first quarterfinal saw how good Canada was in Toulouse.

Leading 12-10 in the final seconds, the Aussies had a big decision to make – take the three points from a penalty or play the ball and find a gap to score.

With the ball going from side to side, it needed a huge Brook Taylor tackle to give the Canadians their first semifinal spot in the season.

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Needing to win next week’s four-team tournament to retain core status, peaking on the final tour of the 2023 Sevens World Series has to be very positive.

The second semifinal showcased the efficiency of New Zealand.

Having survived an early onslaught on their try-line, with the need of a TMO to confirm their line hadn’t been breached, they controlled the game against Ireland, comprehensively beating them 35-0.

Marcos Moneta continued to show his worth to Argentina as he made up a try from nowhere before the second minute to make sure the BlitzBoks knew that they had a hard game on hand.

A perfect chip-kick from Rodrigo Isgro placed the ball for Moneta to continue breaking the Los Pumas’ try-scoring record for a season.

Without giving the South Africans time to think about what to do next to close the score, Luciano González made the best of the kick-off to score his team’s third try, ensuring that the Series champion will be decided in London and not Toulouse.

A yellow card for replacement Joaquín Pellandini offered an extra player to the South Africans that quickly took the opportunity, scoring two tries but failing with a conversion, giving Argentina the nine-point buffer to play down the clock for the 21-12 win, the first in Cup game against the BlitzBoks for the first time since Las Vegas in 2018.

The day finished with Great Britain opening the score against hosts France when Api Bavadra took the outside on a short pass to score in the sixth minute.

Soon after the restart, France attacked and Jordan Sepho showed his speed to run unopposed for fifty yards to tie the game going to the break.

The second half saw Great Britain receiving two consecutive yellow cards, giving Andy Timo a two-player overlap for an unconverted try, only taking five points from the double power play opportunity.

The crowd, at its loudest, was quietened when 24 seconds from fulltime saw Will Horner score on the left corner. The goal was missed and the draw gave both teams an extra opportunity to win it and find a new hero.

It was Varian Pasquet who scored the winning try 80 seconds into injury time to start the huge celebrations.

“It is always amazing to play at home, the first time for me here in front of family and friends,” said the try-scorer.

“We know them [New Zealand] very well. We came close in Hong Kong and this time we will have the crowd behind us.”

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Nine to sixteen

All eyes were on what Uruguay and Spain would produce as they fight for survival at the top.

Their games came, as if scripted, back-to-back, with Los Teros opening against Japan.

The Asian would not lie down and the 17-5 win meant Uruguay had to work hard, despite leading 17-0 going into the final three minutes. Masked Mateo Viñals, one of Uruguay’s best in the ten tournaments to date, got a brace.

It was hard to predict on paper what would happen between USA and Spain. With the North Americans already knowing they would need to go through regional qualification process in their quest of a place in next year’s Olympics, this game did not have the same meaning for them than for Spain. It showed as the well-supported Spaniards scored almost at ease with veteran Pol Plá scoring a hat-trick as tackles were easily broken as they won 42-14.

Fiji, missing out on much-needed tournament points, proved too good below the Cup quarterfinals, beating Germany 28-5 to continue a run to finish ninth.

Opening clashes

The morning opened with a 10-try Irish-fest as they needed to ensure maximum points in the case of teams drawing on points. On the other side of the 66-0 loss was Japan, now confirmed as relegated for next year’s Series. Braces from Zac Ward, Harry McNulty and Andrew Smith were bettered by the boot of Billy Dardis, who only missed two of those conversions.

The win paid off as Ireland advanced to the quarterfinals as Australia secured the top spot in pool D beating Samoa 26-7.

The loss meant that Samoa was played off the Olympic Qualification run as them not advancing to quarterfinals meant they would not earn sufficient points to challenge Los Pumas.

Canada continued their upward ride after comfortably beating a Uruguay side needing the win the day before by beating Kenya 33-7. Thomas Isherwood managed to show his hairstyle a lot on camera as he was very busy during the game, including scoring a try, setting up a couple and converting three. Finishing second in Pool A, the qualified to the quarterfinals, something they hadn’t done since all season.

Uruguay has never beaten the All Blacks and for a while it seemed it might happen in Toulouse. The 14-12 loss showed how quickly they recovered from losing a huge opportunity against Canada the day before.

Whilst the winners scored by breaking from a distance, Uruguay’s two tries, both following an earlier score by the All Blacks , required much more work, effort and stamina. Their goal in Toulouse is to finish higher than Spain.

Los Leones played the next game and left no-one in doubt of their intentions beating invited side Germany 29-0, gaining momentum going into the business end of the tournament.

Closing Group B, Argentina paraded their Olympic ticket by beating Great Britain 50-0 with star Marcos Moneta crossing for three tries in an eight-try fest.

“It is incredible; we set that goal (Olympic Qualification) at the start of the season, and it took a big effort from the team and the staff so very happy,” said Moneta after the game.

Architect of qualification is coach Santiago Gómez Cora. “Happiness is our first feeling, pride on the work done and joy at knowing we’ll have an extra month of,” he said of not needing to go through the regional qualification process. “This shows that you are allowed to dream. We are happy of where we are, but we will chase more.”

Results

Quarterfinals

Australia 10-12 Canada
New Zealand 35-0 Ireland
Argentina 21-12 South Africa
France 17-12 Great Britain

Ninth-place play-off

Samoa 17-10 Kenya
Uruguay 17-5 Japan
Spain 42-14 United States
Fiji 28-5 Germany

Pool matches

Japan 0-66 Ireland
Samoa 7-26 Australia
Kenya 7-33 Canada
New Zealand 14-12 Uruguay
Spain 29-0 Germany
Argentina 50-0 Great Britain
South Africa 24-7 United States
Fiji 19-24 France

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