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Ireland Begin World Series Qualifier With Back-To-Back Wins

Ireland Begin World Series Qualifier With Back-To-Back Wins

The Ireland Men’s Sevens squad enjoyed a winning start to their quest for World Rugby Sevens Series qualification in Hong Kong, running in 11 tries in their opening pool wins over the Cook Islands (41-5) and Jamaica (26-0).

In the early hours of this morning (Irish time), Anthony Eddy’s side kicked off their Pool G campaign in impressive fashion with back-to-back victories at Hong Kong Stadium. Leinster Academy duo Jimmy O’Brien and Terry Kennedy led the way with three tries each, while Ian Fitzpatrick (2), Mark Roche, Harry McNulty and Shane Daly also crossed the whitewash.

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All 12 members of the squad got game-time at the iconic Sevens venue, as Ireland moved to the top of the table, just ahead of Uruguay who they meet in tomorrow’s pool decider at 9.22am local time/2.22am Irish time. The Uruguayans were successful against Jamaica (22-5) and the Cook Islands (38-0), while Uganda and Germany, the Pool E and F leaders respectively, are unbeaten too after day 1.

Wearing their changed all-white strip, Eddy’s men opened the Hong Kong 7s qualifier against the Cook Islands and quickly got to work. The Oceania outfit typically threw themselves into tackles, with Hugo Keenan welcomed to the game with a thumping hit early on, but Ireland scored inside three minutes, Kennedy helping to win a penalty near halfway and he tapped and linked with Keenan before O’Brien showed good strength to get over between two defenders.

Roche pulled the conversion wide but it was his high, hanging restart which led to an immediate second try. McNulty tapped it back to Fitzpatrick who managed to duck inside a defender and score near the left corner, with Roche adding a well-struck conversion for a 12-0 lead. The latter got among the tries next, muscling his way over after some neat passing and good recycling from McNulty.

In the final play of the first half and from their fourth try-scoring visit to the 22, Fitzpatrick knocked the restart back on Ireland’s side and passes from Keenan and O’Brien, out to the right, invited Kennedy to outpace the covering defender and make it 22-0 at the interval.

The St. Mary’s College clubman doubled his tally inside two minutes of the restart, sprinting clear on the left wing after Roche had collected a Cook Islands clearance kick. The impressive Roche made way for captain Billy Dardis who was swiftly involved in Ireland’s sixth try, which came from a close-in lineout. Possession was moved to the right of the posts where Kildare man O’Brien stepped inside two defenders to complete his brace. Dardis converted for 34-0.

Junior Kiria finished off a late consolation score for the Cook Islands, following Daly’s sin-binning for a deliberate knock-on, but replacements Robert Baloucoune and Bryan Mollen ran hard to ensure Ireland ended the pool opener on the attack, and Fitzpatrick duly weaved in off his left, spotting space at the heart of the defence to go in under the posts.

Roared on by their enthusiastic green-clad supporters, Ireland returned for their round 2 clash with Jamaica in their regular all-green strip, fielding the same starting line-up. Good early defence from John O’Donnell and McNulty prevented Jamaica from launching a break from deep, with the latter winning a penalty for holding on.

O’Brien then darted through a gap after linking with Kennedy and he evaded two chasing defenders for a well-taken try behind the posts, which Roche converted. Dyneal Fessel was then sin-binned for a no-arms tackle on Fitzpatrick, and from the free-kick, the ball was worked wide to Kennedy who sped over from the edge of the 22.

12-0 is how it stayed up to the interval, with a leaping Fitzpatrick unable to hold onto Keenan’s pass with McNulty waiting to convert a two-on-one out wide. A knock-on from McNulty spoiled what would have been a well-worked third try soon after the restart, as he combined with O’Donnell and almost freed up the supporting Keenan for the line.

However, McNulty deservedly got on the scoresheet in the ninth minute, Kildare man O’Brien foraging at the breakdown to win a penalty and McNulty scored from the quick tap, with Roche converting for a 19-0 advantage.

Although their handling errors increased, Ireland were able to tag on a fourth try when Mollen secured turnover ball on the ground and Cork Constitution’s Daly threw a dummy and slipped out of a tackle to touch down behind the posts. Roche slotted the conversion and 26 points remained the margin as McNulty had a try ruled out for a forward pass from Will Connors, while Roche and Baloucoune got back to deny Jamaica a last-minute score.

The Hong Kong 7s qualifier games are being streamed live on the World Rugby Sevens Series Facebook page: www.facebook.com/worldrugby7s/.

Buy the new Ireland Sevens jerseys exclusively from Elverys – click here.

World Rugby Sevens Series Qualifier – Hong Kong 7s Results/Fixtures/Pools

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Squad (2018 World Rugby Sevens Series Qualifier – Hong Kong 7s, Hong Kong Stadium, Friday, April 6-Sunday, April 8):

Robert Baloucoune (Enniskillen/Ballymena/Ulster) *
Will Connors (UCD/Leinster) *
Shane Daly (Cork Constitution/Munster) *
Billy Dardis (UCD) (capt)
Ian Fitzpatrick (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster)
Terry Kennedy (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
Harry McNulty (UCD)
Bryan Mollen (Dublin University) *
Jimmy O’Brien (UCD/Leinster)
John O’Donnell (Lansdowne)
Mark Roche (Blackrock College)

13th man: Foster Horan (Lansdowne) *

* Denotes uncapped player

WORLD RUGBY SEVENS SERIES QUALIFIER – HONG KONG 7s:

IRELAND RESULTS/FIXTURES –

Friday, April 6

POOL G:

Ireland 41 Cook Islands 5, Hong Kong Stadium
Ireland: Tries: Jimmy O’Brien 2, Ian Fitzpatrick 2, Mark Roche, Terry Kennedy 2; Cons: Mark Roche, Billy Dardis 2

Team: John O’Donnell, Ian Fitzpatrick, Harry McNulty, Mark Roche, Hugo Keenan, Jimmy O’Brien, Terry Kennedy.

Subs used: Billy Dardis (capt), Shane Daly, Robert Baloucoune, Bryan Mollen, Will Connors.

Ireland 26 Jamaica 0, Hong Kong Stadium
Ireland: Tries: Jimmy O’Brien, Terry Kennedy, Harry McNulty, Shane Daly; Cons: Mark Roche 3

Team: John O’Donnell, Ian Fitzpatrick, Harry McNulty, Mark Roche, Hugo Keenan, Jimmy O’Brien, Terry Kennedy.

Subs used: Bryan Mollen, Shane Daly, Will Connors, Billy Dardis (capt), Robert Baloucoune.

Saturday, April 7

Ireland v Uruguay, Hong Kong Stadium, 9.22am local time/2.22am Irish time

QUARTER-FINALS

Sunday, April 8

SEMI-FINALS & FINAL