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Ireland Men To Face Hosts In Clermont 7s Cup Quarter-Finals

Ireland Men To Face Hosts In Clermont 7s Cup Quarter-Finals

Ireland had ten different try scorers today as they swept Belgium, Italy and Wales aside to win Pool C and book a Cup quarter-final berth at the Rugby Europe Sevens Grand Prix Series tournament in Clermont-Ferrand.

Three teams emerged with unbeaten records on day 1 at Stade Gabriel Montpied, with Russia, Spain and Ireland, who are all locked together on 36 Grand Prix Series points after the opening two tournaments, avoiding any slip ups.

Anthony Eddy’s charges won their pool decider with Wales (21-5), aided by a brace of tries from Fionn Carr late in the first half, while they got the better of Belgium (28-5) and Italy (35-0) in the earlier rounds.

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It sets up a mouth-watering quarter-final clash with hosts and Pool A runners-up France tomorrow morning (10.44am local time/9.44am Irish time – live on eir Sport 1/live streaming via www.rugbyeurope.tv). Les Bleus were victorious against England (43-0) and Poland (36-7) but lost a tight game to Russia – 17-14.

Notably, Ireland suffered a couple of injuries with Clontarf’s Mick McGrath hurting his right knee during the Belgium match and playing no further part in the pool stages. Jordan Conroy, the try-scoring star in Lodz three weeks ago, was icing his hip after coming off during the first half against Wales.

Returning to Grand Prix Series action after their third place finish in Lodz, Ireland got on the front foot immediately against Belgium thanks to captain Billy Dardis’ pinpoint kick-off which was gathered by Carr. Possession was quickly moved out to the left where McGrath charged clear up the touchline for a try after just 25 seconds. Dardis converted for 7-0.

Unfortunately, McGrath had to be helped off in the third minute having taken the ball into contact and then gone down clutching his right knee. When play resumed, Harry McNulty tidied up scrappy ruck ball and supplied his second try assist, lofting a lovely pass out for Ian Fitzpatrick to go over in the right corner. Dardis, who did not miss a conversion all day, added the extras with a terrific touchline kick.

Try number three followed past the half-time hooter, giving Ireland a 21-0 lead at the turnaround. UCD clubman McNulty was the scorer, finishing off from a couple of metres out after Hugo Keenan’s initial break from the Irish half had drawn a penalty in front of the Belgian posts.

McNulty increased his influence in the second period with a lineout catch and a tremendous run from deep. A Belgian offside led to a sin-binning for successive infringements and replacement Mark Roche tapped the ninth-minute penalty and hared through a gap to go in behind the posts and convert.

Along with Roche, John O’Donnell, Greg O’Shea, Nick Timoney and the returning Josh Rowland got some decent game-time off the bench, but Belgium gained some late consolation inside the final two minutes when Corentin Lecloux got past Fitzpatrick to score on the right.

Again, Ireland conjured up a first-minute try in their second round clash with Italy. Keenan claimed the kick-off and gained ground towards halfway, before Timoney and McNulty linked slickly on the right wing and neat footwork from the latter saw him break clear for a Dardis-converted score.

Dardis had to make a try-saving tackle as Italy hit back strongly midway through the first half, with Fitzpatrick also doing well to thwart a likely score near his own line. Carr countered from the resulting turnover, however Keenan’s pass was behind the waiting Fitzpatrick and a knock-on spoiled the attack.

A late lineout offered Ireland a chance to press for a second try and it duly arrived as quick ball allowed Conroy to outpace his opposite number on the outside and Dardis’ successful conversion from wide on the right gave his side a 14-point cushion at the interval.

Having absorbed some early Italian pressure after the restart, Carr and Conroy spearheaded a surge downfield which yielded a converted ninth-minute try for the hard-working Keenan. It got worse for the Azzurri as Diego Antl saw yellow for a deliberate knock-on, the tapped penalty allowing McNulty to send Timoney powering over in the left corner.

Dardis maintained his 100% place-kicking form with another crisply-struck conversion, and he also added the extras to the game’s closing try from Shannon speedster O’Shea who crossed thanks to a nice in-and-out run. Italy’s Francesco Bonavolonta had a try within a grasp in the dying seconds, but his kick would not sit up for him and Ireland avoided a late concession.

That left a Celtic derby to decide who topped the pool as Wales had also beaten Italy (12-7) and Belgium (24-21). Ireland held the early possession and territory via two penalties, but the Welsh defence was strong and Conroy, who slipped out of a tackle near the right touchline, sustained that injury in the process and had to be replaced.

The breakthrough came in the fifth minute when Carr broke a tackle just outside his 22 and had the pace to stay out in front of the Welsh chasers. Dardis converted and also topped off Carr’s second try past the half-time hooter – another lung-bursting run from deep after a Welsh pass was fumbled.

Fitzpatrick got in at the breakdown to win a penalty early on the resumption, setting Ireland on the attack and after some good possession play, Rowland stepped off his right to sprint in for a try from the edge of the 22. Dardis tagged on his 11th successful conversion from as many attempts. The three-try cushion remained in place until a couple of missed tackles allowed Dafydd Smith through in the closing stages.

Ireland are attempting to qualify for both the World Rugby World Sevens Series Repechage in Hong Kong next season, and next summer’s Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco. As it stands, the men in green are the first of the two sides currently on course to qualify for the World Series Repechage, with Germany holding the second spot.

Eddy’s men also hold top spot for in the race for 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens qualification due to a superior points difference, but are tied with Spain and Russia on 36 Grand Prix Series points.

FULL VIDEO REPLAY – POOL C: IRELAND 28 BELGIUM 5 (1:31:47-1:53:56) by Rugby Europe

FULL VIDEO REPLAY – POOL C: IRELAND 35 ITALY 0 (1:32:27-1:53:40) by Rugby Europe

FULL VIDEO REPLAY – POOL C: IRELAND 21 WALES 5 (1:50:54-2:12:30) by Rugby Europe

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Squad (2017 Rugby Europe Sevens Grand Prix Series – Round 3, Stade Gabriel Montpied, Clermont-Ferrand, France, Saturday, July 1-Sunday, July 2):

Fionn Carr (Naas)
Jordan Conroy (Buccaneers/Connacht)
Billy Dardis (UCD) (capt)
Ian Fitzpatrick (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster)
Mick McGrath (Clontarf)
Harry McNulty (UCD)
John O’Donnell (Lansdowne)
Greg O’Shea (Shannon/Munster)
Mark Roche (Lansdowne)
Josh Rowland (Buccaneers)
Nick Timoney (Queen’s University/Ulster)

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Fixtures/Results –

Saturday, July 1 – Pool C:

Ireland 28 Belgium 5, Gabriel Montpied Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Mick McGrath, Ian Fitzpatrick, Harry McNulty, Mark Roche; Cons: Billy Dardis 3, Mark Roche

Team: Mick McGrath, Harry McNulty, Hugo Keenan, Ian Fitzpatrick, Jordan Conroy, Fionn Carr, Billy Dardis (capt).

Subs: Nick Timoney, Greg O’Shea, John O’Donnell, Josh Rowland, Mark Roche.

Ireland 35 Italy 0, Gabriel Montpied Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Harry McNulty, Jordan Conroy, Hugo Keenan, Nick Timoney, Greg O’Shea; Cons: Billy Dardis 5

Team: Nick Timoney, Harry McNulty, Hugo Keenan, Ian Fitzpatrick, Jordan Conroy, Fionn Carr, Billy Dardis (capt).

Subs: Greg O’Shea, John O’Donnell, Josh Rowland, Mark Roche.

Ireland 21 Wales 5, Gabriel Montpied Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Fionn Carr 2, Josh Rowland; Cons: Billy Dardis 3

Team: Nick Timoney, Harry McNulty, Hugo Keenan, Ian Fitzpatrick, Jordan Conroy, Fionn Carr, Billy Dardis (capt).

Subs: Greg O’Shea, John O’Donnell, Josh Rowland, Mark Roche.

Sunday, July 2:

Cup Quarter-Final: France v Ireland, Gabriel Montpied Stadium, 10.44am local time/9.44am Irish time

The full pools tables/results/fixtures are available on the Rugby Europe tournament page. Live coverage of the matches is on eir Sport 1 and www.rugbyeurope.tv. For information on the RWC Sevens qualification process, click here.