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Ireland Men’s Sevens Team Tee Up Exeter Quarter-Final Against England

Ireland Men’s Sevens Team Tee Up Exeter Quarter-Final Against England

Unbeaten Ireland were the dominant team on the opening day of the Exeter 7s tournament, as they eye up the Rugby Europe Sevens Grand Prix Series title and qualification for the 2018 Sevens Rugby World Cup.

Anthony Eddy’s men ran in 16 tries and conceded only two as they rattled off wins over Portugal (36-7), Belgium (40-7) and World Series side France (26-0) to top Pool A in comprehensive fashion. They will face hosts England in tomorrow morning’s Cup quarter-finals at 11.30am.

Jimmy O’Brien and Jordan Conroy top-scored with four tries apiece during the pool stages, with the jet-heeled Conroy adding to his 11 scores from the first three legs of the series.

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Four unanswered tries in the second half saw Ireland overcome the determined challenge of Portugal in their opening game at Sandy Park. Two of those scores came from quick taps as the series leaders ran out 36-7 winners in the end.

The early exchanges were scrappy with Portugal having the lion’s share of first half possession. Conroy almost made the breakthrough after he combined with Fionn Carr to force a turnover, however the Buccaneers flyer had a foot in touch as he attempted to streak clear up the left wing.

But Conroy was over the try-line in the fourth minute, evading one tackle near halfway and stepping through a gap to race over wide on the right. His try went unconverted and Ireland were made to work hard for their second five-pointer late on, Nick Timoney feeding Ian Fitzpatrick who did really well to avoid a knock-on and drive up close before Timoney picked from the ruck to muscle his way over.

However, Portugal reeled Ireland back in past the half-time hooter, cutting the gap to 10-7 thanks to a Joao Bello try under the posts. It came from an attempted offload by Timoney which was intercepted, and then Fabio Conceicao threatened before Bello sliced through the middle.

Ireland had to absorb further pressure early in the second period, with Conroy and captain Billy Dardis making important cover tackles and Timoney and Hugo Keenan combining to win a penalty at the breakdown. From then on, the men in green upped the pace and exerted greater control of proceedings.

Harry McNulty tapped a penalty in the Portuguese 22, linked with Keenan and took the return pass to score behind the posts. Dardis converted and replacement Mark Roche added the extras to John O’Donnell’s try straight from the restart. Pressure from Fitzpatrick meant the ball went loose and O’Donnell hacked through and gathered his own kick to dot down.

The Irish bench produced another try when O’Brien made a terrific outside break over halfway and he zoomed over wide on the left. Keenan added the sixth score after the hooter, invited forward by McNulty’s quick tap and stepping inside two defenders and stretching over out of a tackle on the line. Roche tagged on his second conversion for a 29-7 winning margin.

Ireland made it two wins out of two with a 40-7 dismissal of Belgium in the second round. Naas man O’Brien bagged a brace of tries and Lansdowne clubman Roche, who landed four conversions, led the scoring with a 13-point haul.

The game was only 30 seconds old when neat footwork from Conroy saw him burn a defender on the outside and run in the opening try. Roche was next over the whitewash, profiting from a McNulty turnover on the ground as he threw a dummy and arced away to score in the right corner, making it 12-0.

Ireland were 26 points to the good by the interval, O’Brien chasing down the restart and his inside pass released Keenan for the line. Roche converted and also added the extras to O’Brien’s late score which saw him dart in between two defenders and finish neatly on the left.

Just over a minute after the restart, Keenan soared to take down the kick-off and following some patient build-up play, Fitzpatrick found a gap around the side of a ruck to put 33 points between the sides.

Belgium enjoyed a purple patch soon after, with Ireland having to scramble left and right in defence, before Isaac Montoisy latched onto his own kick through for an opportunist seven-pointer with 12 minutes on the clock.

Debutant Adam Leavy featured prominently in the closing stages, with Greg O’Shea also having a good impact off the bench. Fittingly, Ireland conjured up a sixth and final try when McNulty’s pass released O’Brien through a gap in the Belgian 22 and Dardis’ conversion was the final act of a one-sided contest.

Head coach Eddy reverted to his starting line-up from the first round as Ireland renewed rivalries with France. Keen to avenge a tight quarter-final defeat in Clermont, the French almost hit the front after a minute but Manoel Dall’igna was denied a try by a foot in touch.

France came to Exeter with a beefed-up squad, which include seven players with World Series experience, however it was Ireland who landed a one-two blow before half-time to lead 12-0. Conroy used a well-timed pass to speed away on the outside for the third-minute opener, with skipper Dardis knocking over an excellent conversion from wide out on the left.

Stung 17-14 by Portugal in the last round, France were struggling for continuity and the Irish defence marshalled them well. Dardis and Carr both gained ground in attack before France leaked a late second try, Carr making the hard yards again and drawing in defenders before Fitzpatrick made it over in the left corner via a McNulty pass.

The second half was evenly balanced until McNulty, who was a real workhorse in the set piece and open play, won a penalty at the breakdown. Taking the lineout option, Dardis was hauled down five metres out before some lovely footwork from O’Brien took him past two defenders for his fourth try of the day, converted by Dardis from in front of the posts.

Conroy joined him on four tries with a well-taken closer as he raided in from the left wing. The Buccaneers clubman had won possession back for Ireland by bundling Josias Daoudou into touch. France infringed at the lineout, allowing Roche to take a quick tap and O’Brien’s final pass was initially juggled by Conroy who regathered it in the air to take off for the line and seal a terrific 26-0 success.

FULL VIDEO REPLAY – IRELAND 36 PORTUGAL 7 (5:55-30:13) by Rugby Europe

FULL VIDEO REPLAY – IRELAND 40 BELGIUM 7 (1:51-24:00) by Rugby Europe

FULL VIDEO REPLAY – IRELAND 26 FRANCE 0 (4:36-26:42) by Rugby Europe

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Squad (2017 Rugby Europe Sevens Grand Prix Series – Round 4, Sandy Park, Exeter, Saturday, July 15-Sunday, July 16):

Fionn Carr (Naas)
Jordan Conroy (Buccaneers/Connacht)
Billy Dardis (UCD) (capt)
Ian Fitzpatrick (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster)
Adam Leavy (Galwegians/Connacht) *
Harry McNulty (UCD)
Jimmy O’Brien (UCD/Leinster)
John O’Donnell (Lansdowne)
Greg O’Shea (Shannon)
Mark Roche (Lansdowne)
Nick Timoney (Queen’s University/Ulster)

* Denotes uncapped player

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Fixtures/Results –

Exeter 7s – Pool A:

Saturday, July 15:

Ireland 36 Portugal 7, Sandy Park
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Jordan Conroy, Nick Timoney, Harry McNulty, John O’Donnell, Jimmy O’Brien, Hugo Keenan; Cons: Billy Dardis, Mark Roche 2

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

Subs: Adam Leavy, Greg O’Shea, John O’Donnell, Jimmy O’Brien, Mark Roche.

Ireland 40 Belgium 7, Sandy Park
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Jordan Conroy, Mark Roche, Hugo Keenan, Jimmy O’Brien 2, Ian Fitzpatrick; Cons: Mark Roche 4, Billy Dardis

Team: Harry McNulty (capt), Hugo Keenan, Ian Fitzpatrick, John O’Donnell, Jordan Conroy, Jimmy O’Brien, Mark Roche.

Subs: Adam Leavy, Greg O’Shea, Nick Timoney, Fionn Carr, Billy Dardis.

Ireland 26 France 0, Sandy Park
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Jordan Conroy 2, Ian Fitzpatrick, Jimmy O’Brien; Cons: Billy Dardis 2, Mark Roche

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

Subs: Adam Leavy, Greg O’Shea, John O’Donnell, Jimmy O’Brien, Mark Roche.

Sunday, July 16:

Cup Quarter-Final: Ireland v England, Sandy Park, 11.30am

The full pool tables, results and fixtures are available on the Rugby Europe tournament page. Live coverage of Sunday’s knockout stages is available on Sky Sports 3 and www.rugbyeurope.tv. For information on the RWC Sevens qualification process, click here.