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Ireland Maintain Winning Form To Set Up Semi-Final Against Japan

Ireland Maintain Winning Form To Set Up Semi-Final Against Japan

The Ireland Men’s Sevens squad are two steps closer to a shot at HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series qualification after scoring six tries each in well-judged wins over Uruguay (36-0) and Zimbabwe (38-5) at the Hong Kong 7s today.

Anthony Eddy’s men will face Japan in tomorrow’s semi-finals at Hong Kong Stadium (kick-off 12.54pm local time/5.54am Irish time), with Germany, last year’s beaten finalists, playing Chile on the other side of the draw. The overall winners of the tournament will earn a place on next season’s World Series.

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Ireland and Germany are the only unbeaten teams left after stringing together four successive wins each. Eddy’s charges progressed to the last-eight as the top seeds after claiming a 36-0 victory over Uruguay in their final Pool G game, beginning day 2 with a confident display in the morning session.

Hugo Keenan and Ian Fitzpatrick made early incisions before a bout of pressure in the Uruguayan 22, which saw their captain Gabriel Puig sin-binned, led to Fitzpatrick standing up a defender and squeezing over in the right corner for an opening fifth-minute try. Joaquin Alonso almost conjured up an immediate response for Uruguay but Mark Roche caught him with a tremendous try-saving tackle.

In the final minute of the first half, Ireland went from deep off the five-metre lineout, Terry Kennedy gained ground on the left before his pass was juggled and claimed by Jimmy O’Brien who brilliantly evaded one defender, stepped inside another one, and evaded a third on a 55-metre run to the line. Roche’s conversion made it 12-0 for half-time.

Keenan’s hard work in tapping back the restart had Ireland hunting an early second half try, and with the South Americans continuing to leak penalties, Kennedy jinked over from a quick tap for a 17-0 lead. 20-year-old replacement Robert Baloucoune had a good impact off the bench, sucking in two defenders and although his offload did not go to hand, it bounced up nicely for the supporting Keenan to touch down from close range.

Captain Billy Dardis converted and Ireland’s fifth try followed straight from the restart, Will Connors getting in to disrupt the Uruguayan receiver and the ball bounced up for the onrushing Harry McNulty to collect without breaking stride and run clean through from over 30 metres out. Dardis added the extras from straight in front, and there was still time for replacement Shane Daly to step off his right and dart over for the final seven-pointer with seven seconds remaining.

Entering the knockout stages, and experiencing the Hong Kong 7s night atmosphere for the first time, Ireland tore out of the blocks against Zimbabwe with John O’Donnell scoring from Roche’s kick-off. The ball bounced off the back of Daly’s head in the air, Fitzpatrick hoovered it up and passed for his Lansdowne club-mate O’Donnell to finish off to the left of the posts.

Keenan was next over the whitewash, Ireland patiently building from deep before the UCD clubman straightened up on halfway to ghost through a gap and score. Roche converted for a 12-0 advantage, midway through the first half, and O’Donnell’s penalty win at the breakdown teed up another try soon after. O’Brien threatened from well-stone lineout possession before Daly’s excellent long pass, which covered 27 metres, put Fitzpatrick dashing over from the left wing.

26 points was the margin at half-time after sniping half-back Roche led a late assault, and from his penalty five metres out, he fed Daly who showed impressive strength to take on two defenders and stretch in under the posts. Roche knocked over his third successful conversion.

The second period was a slow-burning affair, Zimbabwe having all the early pressure and eventually crossing out wide through their captain Hilton Mudariki who was introduced as a replacement. Ireland had further defending to do after Bryan Mollen was sin-binned for a high tackle with less then three minutes to go.

Ireland had the stronger finish despite that yellow card, Kennedy showing lovely footwork to break clear for his fifth try of the tournament which Dardis converted. Mollen came back from the bin to run in the sixth and final try, past the hooter, from his own quick tap.

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 36 Uruguay 0, Hong Kong Stadium
Ireland: Tries: Ian Fitzpatrick, Jimmy O’Brien, Terry Kennedy, Hugo Keenan, Harry McNulty, Shane Daly; 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), Robert Baloucoune, Shane Daly, Will Connors, Bryan Mollen.

QUARTER-FINAL: Ireland 38 Zimbabwe 5, Hong Kong Stadium
Ireland: Tries: John O’Donnell, Hugo Keenan, Ian Fitzpatrick, Shane Daly, Terry Kennedy, Bryan Mollen; Cons: Mark Roche 3, Billy Dardis

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

Subs used: Robert Baloucoune, Billy Dardis (capt), Will Connors, Bryan Mollen. Not used: Harry McNulty.

Sunday, April 8

SEMI-FINAL: Japan v Ireland, Hong Kong Stadium, 12.54pm local time/5.54am Irish time