The Ireland Men’s Sevens side ran in five tries without reply in each of their pool wins over Poland (29-0), Portugal (35-0) and Germany (33-0), as they launched the defence of their Moscow 7s title in impressive fashion at a rain-hit Oktyabr Stadium.
The first leg of the Rugby Europe Men’s Sevens Grand Prix Series takes place in the Russian capital, and it is the first step on the road back to the World Series qualifier in Hong Kong. Despite today’s wet weather and difficult handling conditions, Ireland emerged with a perfect three-from-three record from Pool B.
Anthony Eddy’s men ran in 15 tries and conceded none, with St. Mary’s College speedster Terry Kennedy touching down five times. Jordan Conroy, the try-scoring star from last summer’s European campaign, returned from injury with scores against Portugal and Poland, while 20-year-old Enniskillen clubman Robert Baloucoune also opened his series account.
Ireland will play Spain, one of the best third-place finishers, in tomorrow’s Cup quarter-finals at 10.22am local time/8.22am Irish time (live streaming on www.rugbyeurope.tv). Hosts Russia were the only other unbeaten team on day one, with France, England and Italy also catching the eye.
The greasy surface led to a slippery ball and a scrappy opening few minutes between Ireland and Poland, with a Polish breakaway foiled by Hugo Keenan’s well-timed tackle. Midway through the first half, Keenan and Kennedy combined to invite Mark Roche forward out wide and he slipped out of one tackle, spun out of another and evaded the final defender to register the first seven-pointer.
Conroy joined him on the scoresheet before half-time, handed a simple run-in after a neat set-up by Kennedy. The latter then beat a defender on the outside for Ireland’s third try and a very healthy 17-0 lead at the break given how tricky it was underfoot.
Captain Billy Dardis, Shane Daly and Greg O’Shea were all introduced at half-time, and a John O’Donnell break from inside the Irish half offered early promise. A couple of balls were grounded, including a try-scoring opportunity for Conroy, but O’Donnell used a subsequent forward pass from Poland to run in an unconverted try from 15 metres out.
Suttonians scrum half Sean Cribbin came on for his European debut and it was his break over halfway which led to Harry McNulty touching down in the final minute. Cribbin’s low pass was kicked through by McNulty who gathered the bouncing ball, handed off the covering defender and cantered in behind the posts for Dardis to convert.
That proved to be the final score at 29-0 as despite Cork Constitution clubman Daly winning his second successive restart and fellow replacement Baloucoune – another European debutant – threatening wide on the right, Poland held out deep in their own 22 as the try tally remained at five.
Steady rain greeted the Ireland and Portugal teams on their return to the pitch for their second round clash. Ian Fitzpatrick led the men in green with Daly, O’Shea and Baloucoune coming in as starters. Daly opened the scoring after 80 seconds, tapping a penalty 10 metres out and showing good footwork to make the line.
Having converted, Roche was pinged for holding on after being on the cusp of scoring Ireland’s second try. O’Donnell also went close as half-time approached, while Portugal, who had beaten Germany 21-0 in their opening, threatened on a kick chase by Fabio Conceicao. Roche was there to cover the danger and tap down for a 22-metre drop-out.
Eddy’s half-time words fired up Ireland for a much-improved second half effort, with Baloucoune’s well-won turnover on halfway setting Conroy away for a 10th minute try. Dardis converted and also added the extras to his own try, an opportunist effort from close range after he had gobbled up a bouncing ball.
McNulty then tidied up an attack on the left wing, allowing Dardis to put fellow replacement Kennedy over in the corner. A smashing conversion was tagged on by Dardis, and a smart sidestep and burst of pace took Kennedy away from three defenders to complete a quick-fire brace and a seal a 35-0 victory.
The showery weather made way by the time Ireland faced Germany in the final round. The early exchanges were tightly contested with Baloucoune winning a penalty at the breakdown to launch Ireland forward. A dangerous tackle on Fitzpatrick by John Dawe saw him sin-binned and Kennedy sniped over from a close-in ruck, a couple of phases later, for a 7-0 lead.
McNulty won a penalty from the restart to keep Ireland on the front foot, and Baloucoune’s sidestepping run took him over for try number two from 12 metres out. An excellent tackle by Fitzpatrick kept Germany pinned back in their own half, their indiscipline also inviting Ireland forward, and some lovely interplay between Keenan and Kennedy saw the latter cross after the half-time hooter for a 21-0 scoreline.
McNulty beat Anjo Buckman for pace on a run-in from the German 10-metre line, adding to the Irish lead within a minute of the restart. Play was almost exclusively pinned either side of the German 22-metre line, defensive pressure from Ireland resulting in a penalty won by Roche, and well-timed passes from Kennedy and Daly released Keenan for the fifth and final try, making it 33-0 in the end.
After Moscow, Ireland will compete at the World Sevens Series events in London (June 2-3) and Paris (June 9-10) as the invitational team. Tickets for the London 7s are available to buy here, with Eddy’s charges set to face Australia, Wales and Spain.
They then travel to Marcoussis in France for the second round of the Rugby Europe Grand Prix Series (June 30-July 1) and the following week they compete in the third round in Exeter (July 7-8).
The Ireland Men’s and Women’s Sevens teams will both compete at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco over the weekend of July 20-22 at AT&T Park – tickets are available to buy here. The final round of the Rugby Europe Grand Prix Series takes place in Lodz, Poland on September 8-9.
The Ireland Sevens jerseys are available to buy online here from Elverys Intersport, official sports retailer of the IRFU.
IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Squad (2018 Rugby Europe Sevens Grand Prix Series – Round 1, Oktyabr Stadium, Moscow, Russia, Saturday, May 19-Sunday, May 20):
Robert Baloucoune (Enniskillen/Ulster)
Jordan Conroy (Buccaneers)
Sean Cribbin (Suttonians)
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)
John O’Donnell (Lansdowne)
Greg O’Shea (Shannon)
Mark Roche (Blackrock College)
IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS RESULTS/FIXTURES – MOSCOW 7s:
Saturday, May 19 –
Ireland 29 Poland 0, Oktyabr Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Mark Roche, Jordan Conroy, Terry Kennedy, John O’Donnell, Harry McNulty; Cons: Mark Roche, Billy Dardis
Team: Ian Fitzpatrick, John O’Donnell, Harry McNulty, Mark Roche, Hugo Keenan, Terry Kennedy, Jordan Conroy.
Subs used: Billy Dardis (capt), Shane Daly, Greg O’Shea, Sean Cribbin, Robert Baloucoune.
Ireland 35 Portugal 0, Oktyabr Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Shane Daly, Jordan Conroy, Billy Dardis, Terry Kennedy 2; Cons: Mark Roche, Billy Dardis 4
Team: Ian Fitzpatrick, John O’Donnell, Shane Daly, Mark Roche, Greg O’Shea, Robert Baloucoune, Jordan Conroy.
Subs used: Hugo Keenan, Billy Dardis (capt), Terry Kennedy, Harry McNulty, Sean Cribbin.
Ireland 33 Germany 0, Oktyabr Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Terry Kennedy 2, Robert Baloucoune, Harry McNulty, Hugo Keenan; Cons: Billy Dardis 4
Team: Ian Fitzpatrick, John O’Donnell, Harry McNulty, Billy Dardis (capt), Hugo Keenan, Terry Kennedy, Robert Baloucoune.
Subs used: Shane Daly, Mark Roche, Jordan Conroy, Sean Cribbin, Greg O’Shea.
Sunday, May 20 –
Cup Quarter-Final: Ireland v Spain, Oktyabr Stadium, 10.22am local time/8.22am Irish time