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Talented Ireland Under-18s Take Silver In European Sevens

Talented Ireland Under-18s Take Silver In European Sevens

For the third year in a row the Ireland Under-18 Men’s Sevens squad have a top-two ranking in Europe, following their runners-up finish behind France yesterday at the Rugby Europe U-18 Men’s Sevens Championship in Panevezys, Lithuania.

Playing in their first tournament together, Simon Broughton’s young guns acquitted themselves superbly with five wins out of six, a tally of 32 tries scored and ten conceded, and they proved to be the only team to run France close all weekend, losing out 26-17 in the end.

As well as showing his leadership qualities as captain, Glenstal Abbey flyer Ronan Quinn finished as Ireland’s top try scorer with six across the two days, followed by four each from his Munster colleague Jack Hunt and Leinster’s Andrew Smith and Ben Watson.

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Progressing as Pool A winners and then claiming knockout wins over Portugal (24-17) and Germany (26-0), Quinn and his team-mates qualified for Ireland’s third Under-18 European Sevens final in as many years – a huge achievement for all involved and a ringing endorsement of the player development pathways across the provinces and IQ Rugby.

The IRFU Sevens Programme has now overseen back-to-back European titles and a runners-up finish for the U-18 men, and although there was obvious disappointment after France were crowned champions and secured the only European qualifying berth for this year’s Youth Olympics, Broughton’s charges can be very proud of the collective progress made in such a short window.

IRFU Sevens coach Stan McDowell, who assisted Broughton in Lithuania, said: “It was a great weekend for the Under-18 Sevens boys who grew into the tournament over the two days, saving their best performance for the final against a very strong French team who had been preparing for this tournament since September.

“Our third final against France in a row and winners in the previous two years, the competition highlights the strength of Irish Rugby’s established youth pathways and the great work being conducted in the four provinces and the English-based IQ Rugby.

“Brought together for three weekend camps to prepare and for most on the back of an intense period of 15s internationals over Easter, the learning curve required was sharp. But the exposure that this level of Sevens competition gives is invaluable for the players’ development, as well as helping to identify those that can progress into the senior Sevens pathway.”

Quinn was the only returning player involved in last September’s 21-19 final victory over France in Heidelberg, Germany, whereas the French had the luxury of bringing nine of their 2017 squad with them to Lithuania. Their greater levels of experience counted in the end but Ireland fought tooth and nail and had the better of the first half.

First to threaten in the much-anticipated decider, the pacy Smith stepped inside two defenders but was denied by Baptiste Germain’s vital tackle near the right corner. Another chance went a-begging when IQ Rugby’s Hayden Hyde broke the defensive line but lacked support after being tackled short of the whitewash.

Nonetheless, the deadlock was broken in the fourth minute when Quinn and Watson conjured up a clinical attack, the former sniping off the base of a ruck and the latter was up in support to take the pass and step around Germain for a slick seven-pointer. Crucially, Ireland suffered a double setback soon after and the French were level by half-time.

Referee Paulo Duarte harshly sin-binned Alex Kendellen for playing the ball and seemingly delaying the French free-kick after Watson’s restart had not gone ten metres. France then mustered a try out of nothing, possession going loose from a Smith-led attack before Joachim Trouabal was released and he made use of the space out wide. Germain landed the levelling conversion.

In a key period of the game, another tight refereeing call went against Ireland and France were able to build from inside their 22, releasing lightning-quick English-born replacement Calum Randle who scorched clear on the outside for a converted ninth-minute try from inside his own half.

The Ireland youngsters went through the phases from the restart, Hyde and Ryan O’Neill carrying well before Kendellen’s sumptuous one-handed offload, which took two defenders out of the game, played in Hyde for a try which Ben Daly just failed to convert. It was still all to play for at 14-12 and under three minutes remaining.

France’s size advantage helped them hit back swiftly from the restart, the 100kg-plus Jordan Joseph swatting away two defenders before Mark O’Brien successfully took him down short of the try-line, but Joseph was able to get the ball away to the onrushing Randle who gleefully touched down. Germain converted.

Poor officiating, with at least French players offside from Germain’s restart, allowed les Bleuets to regain possession and Tanii Vili used his strength to muscle over for the clinching try. Ireland at least had the final say when Clongowes’ John Maher served up the best try of the final. He rampaged into space right from the Irish 22 and outpaced the cover for a scintillating 80-metre solo score, putting a better look on the scoreboard at 26-17.

Earlier in the day, Pool D runners-up Portugal made Ireland work hard for their 24-17 quarter-final triumph. Indeed, the Portuguese were first on the board with a speedy break from inside their own half and Diogo Salgado was up in support to finish off.

A Brian Deeny penalty win launched Ireland forward, the hard-working O’Neill carrying well before unleashing Quinn who outstripped the defence to score in the fourth minute and close the gap to 7-5. Smith’s sharp footwork left Salgado for dead as he darted over for try number two, with Hyde forcing a penalty at the breakdown to set up the opportunity.

Ireland held onto the momentum and a double hit by forwards Deeny and Kendellen then won turnover ball in the Portuguese 22, allowing Ireland to build for Quinn to glide past a defender and shrug off a second one to touch down close to the posts.

Daly’s conversion made it 17-7 for half-time and Ireland blew a gilt-edged chance to go further in front early in the second period. They deserved a score after jinking runs from Daly and Smith, but Portugal managed to break from deep through Pedro Lucas who ran in a brilliant individual try.

With their lead cut to five points, Ireland came hunting for a settling score and it arrived with two minutes remaining. They showed pace and power to get into scoring range and with Portugal’s Vasco Durao sin-binned for repeated ruck infringements, Kendellen tapped and scored from the close-in penalty.

Watson’s well-struck conversion took the margin out to 12 points but it was seven in the end as the resilient Portuguese pounced for their third try in the dying seconds, Raffaele Storti the scorer. They turned down the conversion in order to have one final restart, yet O’Neill collected the high ball and Watson found touch to seal the result.

The semi-final against Germany, the 21-10 conquerors of Britain in the previous round, was a slow-burning affair. The yellow-carded Quinn paid the price for not releasing after being tackled, with Ireland guilty of giving away a number of early penalties.

They were briefly down to five players after Smith was binned for a high and dangerous tackle, but Quinn thankfully returned for the resulting German lineout. It was the skipper’s hard running over halfway which sparked the best out of the Irish attack, O’Neill carrying hard to the line and testing the defence further before linking with Watson who stepped inside the cover and dotted down beside the posts.

The St. Gerard’s student tagged on the extras to give Ireland a hard-earned seven-point lead at the interval, and Broughton’s charges made further headway on the resumption with the rangy Deeny from Wexford Wanderers stealing a lineout. Shortly afterwards, further pressure on the German throw led to turnover ball and Smith’s delayed pass released former Germany player Hunt to score wide on the right.

Watson swung over a textbook conversion and replacement Maher added a classy third try, tapping after a Kendellen-won penalty at the breakdown and showing impressive pace to evade three defenders on a 55-metre surge to the line. Kendellen turned provider again, seizing an overthrown lineout and offloading in perfect time for Waterpark clubman Daly to finish off Ireland’s fourth and final try behind the posts.

IRELAND UNDER-18 MEN’S SEVENS Squad (2018 Rugby Europe Under-18 Men’s Sevens Championship, Aukstaitijos Sporto Komplekse, Panevezys, Lithuania, Saturday, May 5-Sunday, May 6):

Ben Daly (Waterpark RFC/Munster)
Brian Deeny (Wexford Wanderers RFC/Leinster)
Hayden Hyde (Cranleigh School/Harlequins Academy/IQ Rugby)
Jack Hunt (Rockwell College/Munster)
Alex Kendellen (PBC Cork/Munster)
John Maher (Clongowes Wood College/Leinster)
Mark O’Brien (St. Michael’s College/Leinster)
Kevin O’Connor (Cashel RFC/Munster)
Ryan O’Neill (Royal School Armagh/Ulster)
Ronan Quinn (Glenstal Abbey/Munster) (capt)
Andrew Smith (St. Michael’s College/Leinster)
Ben Watson (St. Gerard’s School/Leinster)


Head Coach – Simon Broughton
Assistant Coach – Stan McDowell
Team Manager – Mark Butler
Physiotherapist – Lorcan McGee


Day 1 – Saturday, May 5:

Pool A –

Ireland U-18s 62 Sweden U-18s 0, Aukstaitijos Sporto Komplekse
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Ben Watson, Ronan Quinn 2, Andrew Smith 3, Brian Deeny, Jack Hunt, Kevin O’Connor, Ben Daly; Cons: Ben Watson 4, Ben Daly 2

Ireland Match Video Replay – 1:15:00-1:36:06

Team: Brian Deeny, Ryan O’Neill, Ben Watson, Ben Daly, Ronan Quinn (capt), Andrew Smith, Alex Kendellen.

Subs used: Jack Hunt, Hayden Hyde, John Maher, Mark O’Brien, Kevin O’Connor.

Ireland U-18s 22 Russia U-18s 10, Aukstaitijos Sporto Komplekse
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Alex Kendellen, Hayden Hyde, Jack Hunt, Mark O’Brien; Con: Ben Watson

Ireland Match Video Replay – 47:50-1:07:18

Team: Brian Deeny, John Maher, Ben Watson, Hayden Hyde, Jack Hunt, Kevin O’Connor, Alex Kendellen.

Subs used: Mark O’Brien, Ronan Quinn (capt), Andrew Smith, Ben Daly.

Ireland U-18s 41 Italy U-18s 5, Aukstaitijos Sporto Komplekse
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Ronan Quinn 2, Ryan O’Neill 2, Alex Kendellen, Jack Hunt, Ben Watson; Cons: Ben Daly 3

Ireland Match Video Replay – 47:50-1:06:32

Team: Brian Deeny, Ryan O’Neill, Ben Daly, Hayden Hyde, Ronan Quinn (capt), Andrew Smith, Alex Kendellen.

Subs used: Ben Watson, John Maher, Jack Hunt, Mark O’Brien, Kevin O’Connor.

Day 1 Round-Up – Ireland U-18 Men’s Sevens Side Go Through Day One Unbeaten

Cup Quarter-Final: Ireland U-18s 24 Portugal U-18s 17, Aukstaitijos Sporto Komplekse
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Ronan Quinn 2, Andrew Smith, Alex Kendellen; Cons: Ben Daly, Ben Watson

Ireland Match Video Replay – 1:38:30-1:57:50

Team: Brian Deeny, Ryan O’Neill, Ben Daly, Hayden Hyde, Ronan Quinn (capt), Andrew Smith, Alex Kendellen.

Subs used: Ben Watson, Jack Hunt, Mark O’Brien, John Maher, Kevin O’Connor.

Cup Semi-Final: Ireland U-18s 26 Germany U-18s 0, Aukstaitijos Sporto Komplekse
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Ben Watson, Jack Hunt, John Maher, Ben Daly; Cons: Ben Watson 2, Ben Daly

Ireland Match Video Replay – 2:18:15-2:37:32

Team: Brian Deeny, Ryan O’Neill, Ben Watson, Hayden Hyde, Ronan Quinn (capt), Jack Hunt, Andrew Smith.

Subs used: Ben Daly, Alex Kendellen, John Maher, Mark O’Brien, Kevin O’Connor.

Cup Final: Ireland U-18s 17 France U-18s 26, Aukstaitijos Sporto Komplekse
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Ben Watson, Hayden Hyde, John Maher; Con: Ben Watson

Ireland Match Video Replay

Team: Brian Deeny, Ryan O’Neill, Ben Watson, Hayden Hyde, Ronan Quinn (capt), Andrew Smith, Alex Kendellen.

Subs used: Jack Hunt, Mark O’Brien, John Maher, Kevin O’Connor, Ben Daly.

The full tournament results and final standings are available to view on the Rugby Europe website.