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History Made As Ireland Men Reach London’s Last-Eight

History Made As Ireland Men Reach London’s Last-Eight

The Ireland Men’s Sevens team continued their upward trajectory by earning a historic Cup quarter-final place at the London leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.

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With hopes high that Ireland can qualify for the World Series proper next year after missing out in Hong Kong in April, Anthony Eddy’s young squad lapped up the experience as an invitational team in the 16-team competition at Twickenham Stadium.
 
Ireland’s first appearance on the World Series circuit since 2004 saw them lay down a marker today with a second-place finish in Pool B, which owed much to an excellent six-try 38-10 win over familiar foes Spain.
 
Eddy’s charges, who lost their other pool games to Australia (33-7) and Wales (21-19) at Twickenham, progressed to the Cup quarter-finals on scoring difference, setting up a mouth-watering clash with the USA, the Pool C winners, tomorrow morning (kick-off 11.20am).
 
It was five points and one victory apiece between Ireland, Wales and Spain, but the back-to-back Moscow 7s champions claimed the runners-up spot behind unbeaten Australia thanks to a +0 points and +0 tries differential, compared to negative returns for their European rivals.
 
Flying winger Jordan Conroy made his mark by running in four of Ireland’s ten tries, with Leinster Academy member Jimmy O’Brien touching down three times and Harry McNulty (2) and Terry Kennedy also crossing the whitewash.


 
O’Brien told IrishRugby.ie afterwards: “We kinda let ourselves down in the first game (against Australia). We gave them the ball back, made silly errors, maybe it was a bit of nerves. But the second game (against Spain) showed what we’re about and showed that we’re up to this level. We’ve played Spain a lot, there’s a bit of a rivalry there over the last couple of years.
 
“After the first game we were all very fired up, very clued-in from the warm-up onwards. We knew we had to win, and as Irish teams do when their backs are against the wall, they kinda pull through. We were very good. It was one of our good performances.
 
“It was frustrating not to get the win against Wales, we’ve played them a lot and have had training camps with them. It’s always very tit-for-tat, quite close against them, one score in it. It was a frustrating result but obviously we’re delighted to get through, we needed every point we could get. Happy it was only two in the end.”


 
The Naas man added: “I can’t wait for the quarter-final. We’re all really excited for tomorrow, you can’t take the smiles off our faces. Everyone is looking forward to it. It was pretty amazing to play at Twickenham. I’d say it was the biggest crowd I’ve every played in front of. The atmosphere and everything, it just encompasses you, it’s all around you. It’s an amazing stadium and tournament to play in.”
 
Guided by Eddy, the IRFU Director of Sevens Rugby, IRFU Sevens coach Stan McDowell and team manager James Topping, Ireland are the first invitational side to reach a Cup quarter-final in the Men’s World Series since Japan, who achieved the feat on home soil in 2015 and Las Vegas in 2016.

A positive first half from Ireland gave way to a disappointing final seven minutes, as a powerful Australia side finished with a flourish and five tries in a runaway 33-7 success. Although a well-timed tackle from John O’Donnell forced an early turnover, the Australians dominated possession from the kick-off and their high tempo play led to Tom Connor’s opening try.
 
McNulty knocked the restart into touch, but it was his good covering which denied Australia captain Tom Holland a try-scoring opportunity near the right corner.
 
Having had hardly any possession, Ireland stunned their experienced opponents with a superb fourth-minute try from deep, Kennedy managing to release fellow flyer Conroy who beat two players for pace up the right touchline and checked Tom Lucas with some neat footwork to raid in behind the posts.


 
Mark Roche’s conversion made it seven points apiece, with both sides unable to add to their tally before the interval – Kennedy was an offload away from giving Conroy some space on the opposite left wing, while Kennedy showed his defensive qualities a minute later when forcing a knock-on from John Porch.
 
However, Australia went up through the gears in the second period to coast clear on the scoreboard. Ian Fitzpatrick was unfortunate to be whistled up for a double movement after being tackled, and lightning-quick replacement Maurice Longbottom reacted quickest as his tap penalty saw him dart clear to make it 14-7.
 
The green and gold continued to dominate the restarts and Sam Myers crossed for the third try via an in-and-out run which took him past Roche. Even when a pass went loose, Australia succeeded in turning it into a try as Boyd Killingworth tied up two defenders and offloaded impressively for Ben O’Donnell to break away from 40 metres out.
 
Ireland’s bench got in on the action with captain Billy Dardis eager to lift his team-mates. Frustratingly, as they attempted to go wide, O’Brien’s long pass was knocked on by Foster Horan, and there was still enough time for Triston Reilly to push the winning margin out to 26 points.

Now in must-win territory, Conroy and O’Brien scored two tries apiece as Ireland outworked and outplayed Spain to secure a terrific 38-10 triumph in the second round.
 
The sun came out and Ireland’s best form did too. Hugo Keenan did well to win the kick-off and there were just 63 seconds on the clock when Roche sent Conroy over in the right corner. The score had roots in an overthrown Spanish lineout and a strong run into the 22 by Fitzpatrick.
 
Swarming defensive pressure kept Spain pinned back in their own half, and after they were pinged for a high tackle, O’Brien took a nice line onto Keenan’s inviting pass to dart in under the posts for a try converted by Roche.


 
McNulty gleefully dived over the try-line in the fifth minute, brilliantly shrugging off a first-up tackle and showing impressive pace to evade two chasers with a big hand-off to boot. A subsequent infringement ruled out a try for O’Donnell before Spain’s Alejandro Alonso’s well-taken score past the half-time hooter cut the gap to 19-5.
 
Ireland snapped back with two tries in the eighth and tenth minutes that had them well out of reach. From a Keenan turnover in midfield, O’Brien’s lovely left-footed kick through was gathered at pace by Conroy to complete his brace, with Roche converting.


 
Fitzpatrick’s determined counter-rucking set up O’Brien for a simple finish from close range, leaving Spain trailing by 33-5. The Spaniards leaked successive penalties, allowing replacement Kennedy to take a quick tap and lunge over to the left of the posts.
 
Jaike Carter’s late try from a breakout was little consolation to Pablo Feijoo’s well-beaten side, who were notably Cup quarter-finalists at the last two World Series events in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Wales play-maker Luke Treharne was the difference in their tight third round showdown with Ireland, who advanced to the Cup quarter-finals despite a 21-19 defeat. Ireland tore out of the traps with McNulty tapping back the kick-off and O’Brien releasing Conroy, from the Welsh 10-metre line, to go over untouched. Roche’s conversion went narrowly wide.


 
A combination of incisive Welsh play and Irish errors allowed the 14th seeds to take a 19-5 lead into half-time. Wales, who are yet to qualify for a Cup quarter-final this season, edged ahead through captain Adam Thomas who cut inside Fitzpatrick after O’Donnell had been penalised at the breakdown.
 
Treharne converted with a fine strike from the right, and while Conroy’s knock-on of a McNulty pass in midfield blew a promising opportunity, it was Wales who displayed a clinical edge before the break.
 
Treharne helped himself to a quick-fire brace of tries, nice angles of running – allied to a power surge from Owen Jenkins – teeing up the first, and quick-thinking off the back of a five-metre scrum sent the Swansea-born half-back over for his second converted score.


 
Wales were held scoreless for the remainder, though, as Ireland outscored them by two tries to none in the second period. The red-shirted defence was worn down for McNulty to dive over from an O’Donnell pass, with the Welsh losing key man Treharne to injury at the same time.
 
The surefooted Roche added the extras to reduce the arrears to 21-12 with less than four minutes remaining, but time just ran out on Ireland’s comeback bid as O’Brien’s neatly-taken closing try came just after the final hooter.

Click here to buy London Sevens tickets and support the Ireland Men’s Sevens team at the home of English Rugby tomorrow. They will also feature in the final World Series tournament of the 2017/18 campaign in Paris next weekend. Click here to buy Paris Sevens tickets.

Eddy’s charges will be in action in Marcoussis in France for the second round of the Rugby Europe Grand Prix Series on June 30-July 1, and the following week they compete at 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. RWC Sevens tickets are available here. The final round of the Rugby Europe Grand Prix Series takes place in Lodz, Poland on September 8-9.

HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series – London Sevens Results/Fixtures

HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series – London Sevens Tables

Follow the Ireland Women’s and Men’s Sevens sides this season in our exclusive behind-the-scenes series – On The Road with the Ireland 7s.

The Ireland Sevens jerseys are available to buy online here from Elverys Intersport, official sports retailer of the IRFU.

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Squad (2017/18 World Rugby Sevens Series – London Sevens, Twickenham Stadium, London, Saturday, June 2-Sunday, June 3):

Robert Baloucoune (Enniskillen/Ulster)
Jordan Conroy (Buccaneers)
Billy Dardis (UCD) (capt)
Ian Fitzpatrick (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Foster Horan (Lansdowne)
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)
Greg O’Shea (Shannon)
Mark Roche (Blackrock College)

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Results/Fixtures:

Saturday, June 2 –

Pool B:

Australia 33 Ireland 7, Twickenham Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Try: Jordan Conroy; Con: Mark Roche

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

Subs used: Foster Horan, Jimmy O’Brien, Bryan Mollen, Billy Dardis (capt). Not used: Robert Baloucoune.

Spain 10 Ireland 38, Twickenham Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Jordan Conroy 2, Jimmy O’Brien 2, Harry McNulty, Terry Kennedy; Cons: Mark Roche 4

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

Subs used: Terry Kennedy, Robert Baloucoune, Foster Horan, Billy Dardis (capt), Bryan Mollen.

Wales 21 Ireland 19, Twickenham Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Jordan Conroy, Harry McNulty, Jimmy O’Brien; Cons: Mark Roche, Billy Dardis

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

Subs used: Terry Kennedy, Foster Horan, Billy Dardis (capt). Not used: Robert Baloucoune, Bryan Mollen.

Sunday, June 3 –

Cup Quarter-Final: USA v Ireland, Twickenham Stadium, 11.20am

The London Sevens tournament will be broadcast live on Sky Sports Action tomorrow, while World Rugby will offer streaming in non geo-blocked locations via www.worldrugby.org/sevens-series/.