RIO DE JANEIRO - Japan’s hopes of winning a medal in the first Olympic women’s rugby sevens tournament all but vanished Saturday as the Sakura Sevens finished the opening day of competition at Deodoro Stadium with two big defeats to their name.
On the day France’s Camille Grassineau became the first woman to score a try at the Olympics — the sport’s four previous appearances in the Games between 1900 and 1924 featured only men’s 15-a-side play — Japan was outpaced and outmuscled by Canada and Britain going down 45-0 and 40-0, respectively, in Pool C.
The Japan Rugby Football Union had said as late as Thursday that it thought the women’s team had an outside chance of finishing in the top three. But the way Keiko Asami’s team was brushed aside suggests even a ninth-place finish — which would earn it a spot as a core team on the 2016-17 World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series — could be beyond it.
Canada ran in seven tries, five of which were converted, as Japan got off to the worst possible start when Ghislaine Landry crossed the chalk just 29 seconds into the game.
“The players were nervous and everything went wrong,” said Asami. “There were no opportunities for us to show off our athleticism.”
Japan’s conquerors finished the day on top of Pool C with two wins each after both defeated host Brazil, the Canadians triumphing 38-0 to go first on points difference and Britain opening with a 29-3 victory.
Joining Team GB and Canada with two wins and a spot in the quarterfinals are France, New Zealand and Australia.
Grassineau’s historic try helped France defeat Spain 24-7 in the opening game of Pool B. And the French followed that up with a 40-7 victory over Kenya to finish the day in second place in the group behind New Zealand, who beat Kenya 52-0 and Spain 31-5.
In Pool A, top seeds Australia lived up to its billing as it thrashed Colombia 53-0 and Fiji 36-0 to book its spot in the quarterfinals.
The Fijians had earlier produced the first upset of the tournament with a 12-7 defeat of the United States. But the Americans rebounded to smash Colombia 48-0 in the penultimate game of the day to remain in the hunt for a place in the top eight.