A youthful Ireland Men’s Sevens squad finished fourth in the Dubai Sevens International Invitational tournament over the weekend, losing out to the more experienced Royals and Tribe teams in two tight knockout matches.
Nine of the Irish squad were aged between 19 and 23 and Anthony Eddy’s travelling party include three members of the Ireland Under-20 team that reached the World Rugby U-20 Championship final last June – Shane Daly, Terry Kennedy and Jimmy O’Brien.
But the player whose finishing skills shone the most was Buccaneers’ lightning quick winger Jordan Conroy who accounted for 10 of Ireland’s 23 tries in Dubai, including hat-tricks against Zambia and the Royals, an England Development side.
Having topped their pool on the opening day, Ireland maintained their winning form in Saturday’s opener with a 22-19 Cup quarter-final victory over Hundested Spurs.
A strong start saw UCD clubman O’Brien go over to the right of the posts and while Hundested Spurs then nipped in front, Ireland retook the lead for half-time (12-7) after punishing a sin-binning by spreading the ball wide for Conroy to claim a well-worked seven-pointer.
Great hands from St. Mary’s back Steve Toal-Lennon, as he fired out a long skip pass, saw Conroy complete his brace early in the second half, and Kennedy rounded his man for Ireland’s fourth try, benefiting from lineout ball that was shipped crisply across the pitch.
Hundested finished strongly as Ireland were guilty of giving away a series of penalties. The Stan McDowell-coached men in green conceded two closing tries but had done enough to progress to the last-four in their first tournament playing together.
Ireland fell agonisingly short in a thrilling semi-final, leaking a late penalty for offside which the Royals sent through the posts for a 22-20 success. The England Sevens Academy outfit went on to be crowned champions, beating the South Africa 7s Academy 17-7 in the decider.
Ireland had trailed 19-5 at half-time, Conroy evading a couple of defenders with another fine finish on the left wing before the powerful Royals began to dominate possession and had three tries to show for it.
But Ireland hit back with three tries of their own after the break, the first of them seeing Conroy fly over on the left again after great hands between St. Mary’s team-mates Toal-Lennon and Kennedy.
Tullamore native Conroy completed his hat-trick by sprinting clear from his own half, making it over in the left corner. His searing pace was matched by Kennedy who found a gap and darted all the way over from halfway. The difficult conversion was missed by Conor Lowndes at 20-19.
However, there was a sting in the tail as that all-important penalty, given away in a central position, allowed the Royals to book their final place with the clinching three-pointer.
That left Ireland playing for third place overall, with the Tribe 7s – a well-oiled Australian Development outfit – providing the opposition. The Irish looked tired as Tribe built a 21-0 first half lead, profiting from a few costly turnovers.
Lansdowne’s John O’Donnell lifted his side’s spirits with a terrific solo try before half-time, his direct run seeing him step away from a couple of defenders and then outmuscle the final man to scramble over by the posts.
Tribe hit back with an early second half try – their fourth converted effort – for 28-7, but Ireland were far from finished. Superb hands from Toal-Lennon and Daly worked the ball up the right touchline before O’Donnell picked from the base of a ruck to score with Toal-Lennon converting.
Ireland’s third converted try followed from Galwegians clubman Lowndes. The fast-breaking O’Brien made terrific ground, Fionn Carr, the squad’s elder statesman at 30, was up in support and floated a lovely pass out for Lowndes to touch down.
Lost possession – this time at a lineout – saw Ireland punished once more, though, as Tribe put the ball through the hands to score on the left and give themselves a match-winning cushion of 33-21. Fittingly, it was top scorer Conroy who had the final say for Ireland, running in a late consolation try from halfway after an excellent initial break by Ulster Academy member David Busby.
IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Squad (DUBAI 7s INTERNATIONAL INVITATIONAL TOURNAMENT, The Sevens Stadium, Dubai, Friday, December 2-Saturday, December 3):
David Busby (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
Fionn Carr (Naas)
Jordan Conroy (Buccaneers)
Shane Daly (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Terry Kennedy (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
Conor Lowndes (Galwegians/Connacht)
Harry McNulty (UCD)
Jimmy O’Brien (UCD/Leinster)
Luke O’Dea (Shannon)
John O’Donnell (Lansdowne)
Nick Timoney (Queen’s University/Ulster)
Steve Toal-Lennon (St. Mary’s College)
Ireland Men’s Sevens Management
Anthony Eddy – IRFU Director of Sevens
Stan McDowell – Head Coach
James Topping – Team Manager
Marian Earls – S&C Coach
Barry Smith – Physiotherapist
Vinny Hammond – Performance Analyst
Sam O’Byrne – Media & Communications
IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS RESULTS – DUBAI 7s INTERNATIONAL INVITATIONAL:
Friday, December 2 –
Ireland 19 Germany Development 5
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: John O’Donnell, Luke O’Dea, Jordan Conroy; Cons: Conor Lowndes, Steve Toal-Lennon
Team: Harry McNulty, Luke O’Dea, Jimmy O’Brien, Terry Kennedy, John O’Donnell, Nick Timoney, Conor Lowndes.
Subs used: Steve Toal-Lennon, David Busby, Shane Daly, Jordan Conroy.
Ireland 33 Zambia 7s 5
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Jordan Conroy 3, Conor Lowndes, David Busby; Cons: Steve Toal-Lennon 3, Conor Lowndes
Team: Harry McNulty, Fionn Carr, Nick Timoney, Conor Lowndes, Jordan Conroy, Steve Toal-Lennon, David Busby.
Subs used: Terry Kennedy, Shane Daly, John O’Donnell, Jimmy O’Brien.
Ireland 21 Georgia 7s 14
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: John O’Donnell, Harry McNulty, Conor Lowndes; Cons: Conor Lowndes 3
Team: Harry McNulty, Luke O’Dea, Jimmy O’Brien, John O’Donnell, Shane Daly, Conor Lowndes, Jordan Conroy.
Subs used: David Busby, Terry Kennedy, Nick Timoney, Fionn Carr.
Saturday, December 3 –
Cup Quarter-Final: Ireland 22 Hundested Spurs 19
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Jimmy O’Brien, Jordan Conroy 2, Terry Kennedy; Con: Steve Toal-Lennon
Team: Harry McNulty, Luke O’Dea, Jimmy O’Brien, John O’Donnell, Nick Timoney, Jordan Conroy, Steve Toal-Lennon.
Subs used: Terry Kennedy, Conor Lowndes, David Busby, Fionn Carr, Shane Daly.
Cup Semi-Final: Ireland 20 The Royals 22
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Jordan Conroy 3, Terry Kennedy
Team: Harry McNulty, Luke O’Dea, Jimmy O’Brien, Nick Timoney, Jordan Conroy, Steve Toal-Lennon, David Busby.
Subs used: Conor Lowndes, Terry Kennedy, John O’Donnell, Fionn Carr, Shane Daly.
Bronze Final: Ireland 28 Tribe 7s 33
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: John O’Donnell 2, Conor Lowndes, Jordan Conroy; Cons: Steve Toal-Lennon 2, Conor Lowndes 2
Team: Harry McNulty, Jimmy O’Brien, Terry Kennedy, John O’Donnell, Shane Daly, Conor Lowndes, Steve Toal-Lennon.
Subs used: Fionn Carr, Jordan Conroy, David Busby, Luke O’Dea.