The Ireland Men’s Sevens squad continued where they left off last weekend in Moscow, rattling off three pool wins on the opening day of the Rugby Europe Sevens Grand Prix Series tournament in Lodz, Poland.
Anthony Eddy’s Moscow 7s champions found the well-manicured Miejski Stadium pitch much to their liking as they defeated hosts Poland (28-10), Germany (26-7) and Portugal (26-5), scoring four tries in each game as they topped Pool A and set up a Cup quarter-final against England tomorrow morning (10am local time/9am Irish time).
Buccaneers winger Jordan Conroy touched down in all three pool matches, with Shannon speedster Greg O’Shea – a debutant at this level – impressing with a brace against Portugal. Lansdowne’s John O’Donnell also crossed the whitewash twice, including the clinching score as Ireland avenged last week’s pool defeat to Germany.
It was not all plain sailing as well-supported Poland flew out of the traps in their opening round clash with Ireland. Fionn Carr fumbled a pass in his own 22 and Krystian Pogorzelski dribbled through to score an unconverted try in the right corner.
Having defended for most of the opening three minutes, Ireland ended the first half on a high and armed with a 21-5 lead. With lineout ball transferred across to his wing, Conroy used a hand-off to scorch clear of three defenders and canter in for a fourth-minute try.
Two more converted efforts followed as captain Billy Dardis, throwing in two classy sidesteps, sliced through for a fine individual score after good work from Conroy and Mick McGrath. A muscular turnover from McGrath led to one final attack past the hooter and O’Donnell cut inside one defender and outside another for a well-taken seven-pointer.
A neat inside pass put Szymon Sirocki over for Poland’s second try in the 11th minute, but Ireland made certain of the result a minute later when some lovely interplay between Carr, Terry Kennedy and Conroy set up replacement Nick Timoney who rounded the final defender from the edge of the 22. Kennedy was denied a run-in late on when O’Shea was whistled up for a forward pass.
Beaten 28-21 by Germany in the Russian capital, Ireland exacted revenge today thanks mainly to a three-try first half display. After absorbing some early pressure, the breakthrough came in the fourth minute when Conroy scooted clear up the left from a Hugo Keenan pass.
Dardis drilled over a pinpoint conversion and Ian Fitzpatrick quickly threatened from a kick through as Germany failed to gather Dardis’ restart. Harry McNulty poached a German lineout and then popped up in attack a couple of phases later, breaking a tackle, handing off another defender and rounding the final man to make it 14-0.
Crucially, Ireland immediately added seven more points to their tally as pressure from Ulster Academy forward Timoney saw the Germans cough up the restart and Carr gladly scooped up the loose ball to go in under the posts.
Missed tackles from Keenan and Conroy allowed Fabian Heimpel through to score and eat into the 21-0 interval deficit. Germany had the lion’s share of possession and territory in the second half, yet Ireland’s line-speed and pressure in defence was good and they duly forced a knock-on.
Ireland made sure of the win when O’Shea broke into German territory, Dardis floated a lovely long pass over to McNulty and he released O’Donnell who burst up the left wing to grab a final unconverted score.
The final round saw the men in green come up against Portugal, a team they edged out 19-17 at the quarter-final stage in Moscow. Again, Ireland took a while to get going in attack, but a strong run from Carr took them up to halfway before O’Shea fed Kennedy and he burned off a defender on the outside for an unconverted fourth-minute try.
Handling errors were blighting Portugal’s play, and both sides knocked on a loose ball after McNulty had broken through the heart of the Portuguese defence but lacked support. A second try gave Ireland a decent 12-0 cushion at the turnaround, O’Shea’s quick feet putting a defender on his back before he sidestepped around the last man to complete a superb 60-metre solo try which Mark Roche converted.
Portugal closed the gap to seven points in the ninth minute, Ireland conceding a scrum and then a penalty with Francisco Murta then freed up to score in the left corner.
Nonetheless, two closing tries ensured a clean sweep of pool victories for Eddy’s charges. Roche’s weaving run from his own half drew a high tackle and Richard Haughton, the former England Sevens star-turned-referee, promptly sent Portugal’s Pedro Leal to the sin-bin.
Ireland swiftly capitalised on their numerical advantage, McGrath carrying powerful before O’Shea slipped away from two tacklers to complete his brace. O’Donnell’s sidestepping run tested the Portuguese defence soon after, and although O’Shea threw a pass behind Conroy, the Tullamore man retrieved it and used his pace to race clear on the outside for the fourth and final try.
A youthful England team, who beat Italy 26-14 but lost to both Russia (24-7) and Wales (29-14), will be Ireland’s Cup quarter-final opponents. Spain and the Welsh, who topped their respectively pools with three wins from three, look to be the other form sides in Lodz this weekend.
IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Squad (2017 Rugby Europe Sevens Grand Prix Series – Round 2, Miejski Stadium, Lodz, Poland, Saturday, June 10-Sunday, June 11):
Fionn Carr (Naas)
Jordan Conroy (Buccaneers)
Billy Dardis (UCD) (capt)
Ian Fitzpatrick (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster)
Terry Kennedy (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
Mick McGrath (Clontarf)
Harry McNulty (UCD)
John O’Donnell (Lansdowne)
Greg O’Shea (Shannon/Munster)
Mark Roche (Lansdowne)
Nick Timoney (Queen’s University/Ulster)
IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Results/Fixtures –
Saturday, June 10 – Pool A:
Ireland 28 Poland 10, Miejski Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Jordan Conroy, Billy Dardis, John O’Donnell, Nick Timoney; Cons: Billy Dardis 3, Mark Roche
Team: Mick McGrath, Harry McNulty, John O’Donnell, Hugo Keenan, Jordan Conroy, Fionn Carr, Billy Dardis (capt).
Subs: Nick Timoney, Ian Fitzpatrick, Terry Kennedy, Greg O’Shea, Mark Roche.
Ireland 26 Germany 7, Miejski Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Jordan Conroy, Harry McNulty, Fionn Carr, John O’Donnell; Cons: Billy Dardis 3
Team: Nick Timoney, Harry McNulty, Ian Fitzpatrick, Hugo Keenan, Jordan Conroy, Fionn Carr, Billy Dardis (capt).
Subs: Mick McGrath, John O’Donnell, Terry Kennedy, Greg O’Shea, Mark Roche.
Ireland 26 Portugal 5, Miejski Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Terry Kennedy, Greg O’Shea 2, Jordan Conroy; Cons: Mark Roche 3
Team: Mick McGrath, Harry McNulty (capt), Ian Fitzpatrick, Greg O’Shea, Fionn Carr, Terry Kennedy, Mark Roche.
Subs: Nick Timoney, Hugo Keenan, John O’Donnell, Jordan Conroy, Billy Dardis.
Sunday, June 11:
Cup Quarter-Final: Ireland v England, Miejski Stadium, 10am local time/9am Irish time
The full results and pools are available on the Rugby Europe tournament page. Live streaming of the matches is on www.rugbyeurope.tv. For information on the RWC Sevens qualification process, click here.