The Ireland Men’s Sevens squad posted wins over the England and France Development teams to claim fifth place in the Dubai 7s International Invitational tournament on Saturday.
Having been knocked out of the Cup competition by the South African 7s Academy side (24-12), Ireland bounced back with impressive victories over the Royals (England Development) (24-5) and France Development (40-7) as they continue to build towards April’s World Series Repechage in Hong Kong.
With Suttonians’ Sean Cribbin becoming the latest player to make his Ireland Sevens bow, the young squad acquitted themselves well over the two days in Dubai, finishing with a record of four wins and two defeats. St. Mary’s College flyer Terry Kennedy top-scored with six tries, closely followed by Trinity’s Bryan Mollen (four tries).
Mollen and Cork Constitution youngster Alex McHenry were Ireland’s try scorers in their 24-12 Cup quarter-final loss to the South African 7s Academy. After leaking an early try, Harry McNulty claimed the restart and Jimmy O’Brien and Mollen both carried strongly, with two penalties won in quick succession. The ball was then worked up the right wing for Mollen to touch down in the corner.
But the South Africans gained crucial momentum either side of half-time, twice scoring out wide with the Irish defence sucked in and the second score a breakaway effort from an Ireland knock-on. They had a fourth try on the board before McHenry closed out the scoring.
Newcomer Cribbin showed nice hands to connect with McHenry and Ireland forced a couple of penalties in try-scoring range. Mark Roche and McHenry both had a cut at the line before a quick recycle saw McHenry get over with two minutes remaining.
With Stan McDowell and James Topping rallying the troops, Ireland returned to winning ways against the Royals to progress to the 5th-6th place play-off. Two first half tries gave them a 12-point cushion, the opener seeing captain Billy Dardis take a quick tap and McHenry gain further ground before Kennedy sprinted clear for a five-pointer.
Ian Fitzpatrick doubled Ireland’s lead when exploiting some space out wide, with Dardis adding a classy conversion from the touchline. The Royals responded when scooping up a loose ball to make it 12-5, but Mollen slammed the door shut on their comeback when sprinting in from outside the 22, following a quick tap by O’Brien.
It was UCD clubman O’Brien who notched the fourth and final try, as Ireland set up a close-in lineout from a penalty and a nice lineout move saw the ball worked across for the 21-year-old back to cross in the far corner.
Ireland’s final outing in Dubai saw them come up against France Development, who were 21-7 winners when the sides met in the pool stages on Friday. It was clear that Dardis and his team-mates were fired up to gain revenge, and they rattled off three tries before the French could respond.
Strong running and accurate passing, early on, put the jet-heeled Kennedy away for the opening try, and then a massive hit by Fitzpatrick forced a five-metre scrum. Kennedy carried well before Dardis’ pick and go saw him muscle over to the right of the posts for 12-0.
Kennedy completed his brace when further pressure in defence led to a French knock-on and he gobbled up the ball to run in from halfway. Although France opened their account soon after, Ireland strung together three more tries to underline their dominance.
Roche won the race to his own grubber kick and his former Lansdowne team-mate, Fitzpatrick, carried a couple of defenders with him over the line following a dazzling run by Dardis who danced around four Frenchmen.
John O’Donnell pushed the margin out to 31 points when he gathered McNulty’s offload and threw a sublime dummy to outfox the defence and nip in at the corner. Dardis’ touchline conversion put the seal on a very satisfying final performance from the men in green.
IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Squad (Dubai 7s Invitational Tournament, The Sevens Stadium, Dubai, Friday, December 1-Saturday, December 2):
Sean Cribbin (Suttonians)
Billy Dardis (UCD) (capt)
Ian Fitzpatrick (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster)
Terry Kennedy (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
Alex McHenry (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Harry McNulty (UCD)
Bryan Mollen (Dublin University)
Jimmy O’Brien (UCD/Leinster)
John O’Donnell (Lansdowne)
Greg O’Shea (Shannon)
Mark Roche (Blackrock College)
IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS RESULTS – DUBAI 7s INVITATIONAL:
Friday, December 1 –
Ireland 26 Germany 12, Pitch 7
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Alex McHenry, Terry Kennedy, Jimmy O’Brien, Bryan Mollen; Cons: Billy Dardis 2, Mark Roche
Old Georgians RFC 0 Ireland 31, Pitch 2
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: John O’Donnell 2, Terry Kennedy, Hugo Keenan, Bryan Mollen; Cons: Billy Dardis 2, Mark Roche
Ireland 7 France Development 21, Pitch 8
Scorers: Ireland: Try: Terry Kennedy; Con: Mark Roche
Saturday, December 2 –
Cup Quarter-Final: Ireland 12 SA 7s Academy 24, Pitch 6
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Bryan Mollen, Alex McHenry; Con: Mark Roche
5th-8th Place Play-Off: The Royals 5 Ireland 24, Pitch 8
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Terry Kennedy, Ian Fitzpatrick, Bryan Mollen, Jimmy O’Brien; Cons: Billy Dardis 2
5th-6th Place Play-Off: France Development 7 Ireland 40, Pitch 7
Scorers: Ireland Tries: Terry Kennedy 2, Billy Dardis, Mark Roche, Ian Fitzpatrick, John O’Donnell; Cons: Billy Dardis 5
IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS 2017/18 Tournament Schedule –
Oktoberfest 7s, Munich, Germany – September 29-30 (Seventh Place)
Elche 7s, Elche, Spain – October 28-29 (Runners-Up)
Silicon Valley 7s, San Jose, USA – November 4-5 (Bowl Champions)
Dubai 7s, Dubai, UAE – December 1-2 (Fifth Place)
Hong Kong 7s (World Series Repechage), Hong Kong – April 7-8
Amsterdam 7s, Amsterdam, Netherlands – June 9-10
Rugby World Cup Sevens, San Francisco, USA – July 20-22