US Sevens rugby team qualify for Olympics

The United States will defend their Olympic rugby crown next year after defeating Canada 21-5 on Sunday to seal their tickets to Rio de Janeiro, where the sport is returning after a 92-year absence.

First-half tries from former American football player Perry Baker, Danny Barrett and Maka Unufe were enough for the US seven-a-side team, who recently won the prestigious London leg of the international sevens circuit.

As expected, the Americans and the Canadians eased into the final of the two-day North America Caribbean Rugby Association (NACRA) qualifying tournament in Cary, North Carolina.

The USA, who won the gold medal at the 1924 Olympics in Paris when 15-a-side rugby was included in the games, effectively wrapped up victory in the opening minutes at WakeMed Park in sweltering conditions.

Baker, who crossed over to rugby after two years of playing indoor American football with the Pittsburgh Power, opened the scoring early on, stretching his legs to outstrip the Canadian defense and dot down under the posts.

Captain Madison Hughes added the conversion for a 7-0 lead.

Moments later Baker turned creator, this time bursting clear from deep inside his own half and feeding Barrett, who sprinted home for another converted score.

It got better just before half time as Folau Niua broke and drew the last Canadian defender before offloading to Unufe, who had a clear run to the line to score, Hughes adding the conversion.

Canada rallied early in the second half when Harry Jones crossed in the corner to make it 21-5 but the Americans were not to be denied their automatic place in Rio.

Canada will now attempt to reach the Olympics via a repechage competition.

The US men will be joined by their women’s team, who booked their place in Rio earlier in the day with an 88-0 final hammering of Mexico.

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