HONG KONG – Taylor Paris scored two tries to lead Canada to a 31-7 win over Spain in the opening game for both countries Friday at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
Nathan Hirayama, Sean Duke and Ciaran Hearn also scored tries for Canada, which pulled ahead after leading 12-7 at the half before 40,000 fans.
Defending champion Fiji defeated Hong Kong 36-6 in the other Pool D game, despite having Osea Kolinisau sent to the sin-bin for a spear tackle. Canada plays both teams on Saturday at the three-day event.
In other action Friday, it was Argentina 21 South Africa 0; New Zealand 33 France 12; Samoa 28 England 7; Wales 19 Australia 14; Kenya 17 U.S. 14; and Portugal 27 Scotland 21.
New Zealand conceded tries to France’s all-time leading scorer Paul Albaladejo to begin each half, but replying twice from kickoffs, another time from a lineout, and a scrum tighthead.
Should the greatest winners of sevens’ annual jewel event keep winning, however, 13-time champ Fiji and 10-time champ New Zealand are destined to meet in the semifinals on Sunday. They have met in 12 Hong Kong finals, many of them classics.
The Canadian women, meanwhile, won their event by defeating Australia 29-0 in the final.
The Canadian men currently stand 10th in the IRB Sevens standings and hope to maintain that position after the last three stops on the circuit.
After that, the top 12 teams will play in the final event in London. Teams 13 through 15 will have to fight for their core status via a promotion tournament that will also feature Asian champion Hong Kong and four other teams to be decided at a secondary 12-team, tournament this weekend.
The Canadian men came to Hong Kong with high hopes after fine performances in New Zealand and the U.S.
They beat Fiji 28-19 in New Zealand en route to winning the consolation Bowl competition.
That tournament also included a 31-7 victory over Spain, another new core team that currently is 14th in the standings.
Before that, the Canadians won the second-tier Plate competition in Las Vegas by beating Scotland to finish fifth.
This season has been ultra-competitive on the sevens circuit with five different winners on the five stops to date. Only New Zealand has finished in the top eight in every event.
South Africa won the last event, in Las Vegas.
— With files from The Associated Press