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Ireland Men Advance As Pool Winners In Lisbon

Ireland Men Advance As Pool Winners In Lisbon

The Ireland Men’s Sevens team drew with top seeds Russia and defeated both Georgia and Italy as they made it through to the Rugby Europe Olympic Repechage Cup quarter-finals as Pool A winners.

Ireland will meet Lithuania in tomorrow’s quarter-finals in Lisbon (kick-off 11.44am), and an intriguing second day lies ahead with hosts Portugal, Russia, Germany, Romania, Belgium and Georgia also in the running for a top-three finish.

The leading three sides at the end of the tournament will advance to next year’s World Rugby Olympic Repechage as the battle to reach Rio 2016 intensifies.

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In their first match of the day, the youthful Irish team showed impressive battling qualities to recover from a 19-5 deficit and earn a 19-all draw with the top-ranked Russians. Steve Toal-Lennon converted his own try and then stand-in captain Gearoid Lyons landed the levelling conversion after a fine try from the influential Shane Layden.

Meanwhile, a momentum-building first half helped Ireland overcome Georgia 21-17 in the second round for their opening win of the tournament.

Ian Fitzpatrick hared through a gap from a Lyons pass, and the Lansdowne winger laid off for the supporting Alex Wootton to burst clear of the final defender and score by the posts.

Leading Ireland in the injury-enforced absence of Tom Daly (wrist), Lyons converted and also added the extras to a quick-fire second touchdown. Wootton returned the favour, setting up Fitzpatrick for a raid in from the right after some good footwork from Harry McNulty and Adam Byrne in the build-up.

Georgia were down to six men after a yellow card-earning tackle on Fitzpatrick and Ireland duly made it 21-0 for half-time. Lyons’ quick tap penalty teed up the lively Aaron Cairns (pictured below) whose cleverly angled run took him over to the left of the posts.

The Georgians came more into it in the second period. Terry Kennedy produced a try-saving tackle early on, but a good spell yielded two tries for the Lelos – one of which was converted to cut the gap back to 21-12.

Kennedy, the St. Mary’s College youngster, thought he was about to answer back for Ireland following a terrific counter attack from close to the Irish posts, however the referee called play back for a forward pass.

Georgia maintained possession late on and exploited some space on the right to grab their third try, but it came after the hooter and Ireland held on for a deserved triumph.

Lyons and his team-mates went on to make it back-to-back victories as they saw off a durable Italian outfit 33-15. That result, coupled with Georgia’s surprise 10-7 defeat of neighbours Russia, saw the Irish finish top of the pool.

After a stop-start opening in humid conditions, an incisive run from Ballynahinch clubman Cairns brought Ireland up to the Italian 22. Lyons was hauled down in midfield before Wootton showed good strength and speed to dot down to the right of the posts.

The Leinster-capped Byrne used a strong hand-off and sudden burst of pace to go over in the same corner soon after, and Lyons’ cracking conversion from wide out make it 12-0.

Italy dug their heels in and came more into it either side of the interval. Ireland were stretched after a Fitzpatrick-led attack broke down, and the Azzurri countered crisply to notch the first of their three unconverted tries.

With a neat sidestep, Cairns did brilliantly to evade two defenders and run in a timely try early in the second period, however Ireland were made to sweat until closing efforts from Wootton and Kennedy made the game safe.

Wootton cut the defence open with a direct run from the left, registering his third try of the tournament, and the fleet-footed Kennedy rounded off the scoring with a fine breakaway effort up the left touchline.

Ireland clash with Lithuania, the Pool B runners-up behind Germany, in tomorrow morning’s Cup quarter-finals (kick-off 11.44am). The game will be streamed live here.

Check out www.irishrugby.ie/sevens for all the latest Ireland Sevens news.

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Squad (Rugby Europe Olympic Repechage, Lisbon, Saturday, July 18-Sunday, July 19):

Adam Byrne (UCD/Leinster)
Aaron Cairns (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
Ian Fitzpatrick (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Terry Kennedy (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
Shane Layden (Buccaneers/Connacht)
Gearoid Lyons (Young Munster/Munster)
Diarmaid McCarthy (Young Munster/Munster)
David McGuigan (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
Harry McNulty (UCD/Leinster)
Matthew O’Regan (Exiles)
Mark Roche (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Alex Wootton (Garryowen/Munster)
Steve Toal-Lennon (St Mary’s College/Leinster)

Ireland Results/Fixtures:

Saturday: Pool A –

Russia 19 Ireland 19
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Steve Toal-Lennon, Shane Layden, Harry McNulty; Cons: Steve Toal-Lennon, Gearoid Lyons

Georgia 17 Ireland 21
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Alex Wootton, Ian Fitzpatrick, Aaron Cairns; Cons: Gearoid Lyons 3

Italy 15 Ireland 33
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Alex Wootton 2, Adam Byrne, Aaron Cairns, Terry Kennedy; Cons: Gearoid Lyons 4

Full Tournament Pools/Fixtures/Results

Sunday: Cup Quarter-Finals –

Ireland v Lithuania, 11.44am
Germany v Romania
Portugal v Russia
Belgium v Georgia