Fiji upsets Canada, Black Ferns fend off Brits in women's 7s
TOKYO (AP) — Reputations and rankings didn't count for anything when Fiji upset Canada and Britain raced to a 21-point lead before falling to top-ranked New Zealand on Day 1 of the Olympic women's rugby sevens competition.
While the bronze and silver medalists from 2016 either lost or had close calls, defending champion Australia posted back-to-back wins over Japan and China to start its Tokyo Games campaign.
The U.S. women were also unbeaten Thursday with wins over China and Japan, but coach Chris Brown was far from happy.
“We got the results where we’re through to the quarters, which is great, but we’re pretty frustrated with the performance we just put out there,” Brown said after a 17-7 win over Japan.
"Some of our squad got opportunities to really do their job, which was to score tries, to go out there physically, and they held back for the first seven minutes.”
The British didn't hold anything back against the top team in women's rugby.
New Zealand has won just about everything there is to win in women's rugby sevens since their disappointing loss to Australia in the Olympic final at Rio de Janeiro five years ago.
They came into the tournament with an aura of invincibility but, after a 29-7 opening win over Kenya, that was seriously tested.
Britain scored three quick tries, dominating possession and sweating on every error by the Black Ferns. But three tries to winger Michaela Blyde and one to Tyler Nathan-Wong quickly restored order and a 26-21 victory that kept New Zealand on top of Pool A.
“It was our mistakes that kept them in the game. When you don’t have the ball, you can’t score," Nathan-Wong said. “That’s something we will clean up going into tomorrow. We know what it is, it’s not something we’re trying to guess, ‘oh my gosh, what happened here?’
“I was like, ‘we’re still in this.’ I never felt truly out of the game."
The Canadian squad lost a month of practice in May because of a COVID-19 outbreak and have had an unsettling coaching overhaul.
They started slowly before beating Brazil 33-0 in their opening Pool B match but then lost 26-12 to a Fiji women's team inspired by the Fijian men's successful Olympic title defense on Wednesday night.
The Fijians had chances to beat France in the opening game of the women's tournament but the French held on for a 12-5 win. France backed it up with a 40-5 win over Brazil that put them on top of the group ahead of Friday's big game against Canada.
New Canada coach Mick Byrne said his team had shown resilience during the preparation and he was expecting plenty more.
“They've been through some adversity. The last few months, we had half our team out with COVID ... we struggled through that, recovered. But we dealt with it," he said. “We’ll recover from that today. Regroup. We’ll come ready to go in the morning.”
More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports