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O’Brien Eager For More After First World Series Experience

O’Brien Eager For More After First World Series Experience

The Ireland Men’s Sevens squad learned some valuable lessons to take forward into the remainder of their summer schedule, following yesterday’s defeats to Canada and Fiji at the Paris Sevens – the final tournament of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.

Injuries took a toll on a tough second day for Stan McDowell’s young charges, with yellow cards in both games also playing a part in Ireland’s downfall. They lost 19-5 to Canada in their second Cup quarter-final appearance in the space of a week, while Fiji, who were pipped to the overall series title by South Africa, ran out 38-5 winners of the fifth place semi-final.

It was still another weekend of serious progress for the IRFU Men’s Sevens Programme as they had two wins and a draw – including a terrific 24-14 triumph over Australia – and picked up 10 points for a top-eight finish, ensuring they moved a point above relegated Russia (26 points) in the final World Series standings despite playing only two of the ten series legs.

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Six more players made their series debuts – Shane Daly, Alex McHenry, James O’Donovan from Old Wesley, Suttonians teenager Sean Cribbin, Greg O’Shea and Adam Leavy, younger brother of Leinster and Ireland star Dan Leavy – and Mark Roche, who stepped in for the injured Billy Dardis as captain, and Harry McNulty continued to stand out as team leaders and ultra consistent performers.

Speaking after meeting talent-laden Fiji in the latter stages for the second week running, Jimmy O’Brien said: “They’re something else, they’re a top quality side. I think looking at ourselves, though, we didn’t play that well against them in London. But I think in that first half (today) we showed what we could do against them. Obviously they pulled away in the second half. We were a bit tired and had a couple of injuries.

“Overall I think we showed we can play at this level, play up against them in that first half, I think we worried them a little bit so I think we’re pretty happy with that.”

The Leinster Academy back added: “It’s been amazing. We were just so gutted after Hong Kong that we didn’t qualify (for the World Series). We had these two (tournaments) to look forward to, and we’re just so happy we got to two quarter-finals like we set out to do.

“We believed we could do well, I don’t know coming into it if anyone else thought we were going to do this well. But we knew as a core group we were going to do well and we’re just delighted that we got into the quarters both times.”

Ireland suffered an early setback in yesterday morning’s Cup quarter-final against Canada, with Cork Constitution clubman Daly, in his attempts to catch a lofted Canadian pass, being sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on. Canada duly took advantage with numbers on the right seeing Nathan Hirayama touch down in the corner.

Their try-scoring captain hit the crossbar with his conversion attempt and following an uncharacteristic knock-on by McNulty and a penalty for Bryan Mollen being slow to roll away, the momentum was built for Pat Kay to cross for a fifth minute try, making it 12-0.

Jordan Conroy closed the gap to seven points by half-time, Mollen doing well to win a penalty at the breakdown and Roche went quickly from the tap, combining with O’Brien to set up the Buccaneers flyer who cut inside both Justin Douglas and Kay to notch his third try of the weekend and his 11th in ten series matches. Roche pulled the conversion wide from the right.

However, Ireland continued to fall foul of referee Richard Haughton’s whistle – Mollen was whistled up for taking a man out in the air from the restart – and Canada continued to control possession, aided it must be said by a couple of crooked lineout throws that went unpunished. Even when Ireland turned over the ball through replacement O’Shea and Daly, the fast-breaking Leavy was penalised for a double roll when his momentum took him forward in a tackle.

Unfortunately for Ireland, Canada’s third try – a well-worked effort finished by Jones – would not have come about if the match officials had pulled up Hirayama for another lineout throw that was not straight. The invitational team finally had some possession late on, with McNulty winning the restart, working it wide to O’Brien in some space.

Lucas Hammond won a relieving penalty for Canada when isolating Roche on the ground, although again it was a 50-50 call which could have gone Ireland’s way. Conroy was well shepherded on a last-minute attack near halfway and a leaping Leavy was unfortunate to miss on a last-minute consolation score, just falling to get his hands on an interception.

Ireland went into their final game against Fiji with only ten players as speedsters Terry Kennedy and Conroy, who were nursing knocks to their knee and groin respectively, were both rested. They did get off to a solid start, pressing deep in the Fijian 22 with Roche winning an initial penalty and McHenry and Mollen both hauled down a few metres out from the whitewash.

The Fijians were lethal off turnover ball, some neat Irish interplay breaking down past halfway and Amenoni Nasilasila broke McHenry’s tackle to speed clear for the opening try, four minutes in. Ireland’s huge work-rate in possession gradually wore down the Fijian defence, with Daly charging up to five metres out, and then accurate passing saw McHenry’s lofted delivery put Leavy over in the left corner.

Just when the elusive Leavy and O’Shea were building momentum for a late attack on the stroke of half-time, there was a miscommunication in midfield and McHenry’s loose pass was gobbled up by Alasio Naduva for a gut-wrenching intercept try and a 12-5 deficit at the break.

Paula Dranisinukula, Fiji’s lone half-time replacement, made an immediate impact on the resumption as he broke Daly’s tackle on a switch and strode clear for Fiji’s third try. Luck was just not on Ireland’s side as replacement Cribbin had to go off injured shortly after his introduction and Semi Kunitani was fortunate to get away with no clear release and what appeared to be a slight knock-on.

Roche made a valiant attempt to prevent Dranisinukula from running in his second breakaway score, hauling down the big man short of the line but his momentum took him over for a sudden 24-5 lead. Roche had to be replaced but Ireland, with O’Brien looking dangerous, continued to play with admirable adventure in attack. Their passes went over the 50 mark.

However, another tight call went against them when Jerry Tuwai won a relieving penalty despite not much evidence of a clear release after the tackle. Worse followed as Mollen saw yellow for throwing the ball away. O’Brien hunted for a turnover penalty but O’Shea, the tackler, was pinged for ‘affecting the clear-out’ according to referee Craig Evans, and the Fijian possession led to Tuwai breaking clear for try number five.

Replacement Waisea Nacuqu added a final score straight from the restart, being in exactly the right place to benefit from a tap-down off the kick. It gave a rather lopsided look to the final scoreline – 38-5 – and the young Irish side certainly deserved to be closer given their sterling effort over 14 action-packed minutes. The pace of Kennedy or Conroy might have made a difference to some attacks which fell short.

Following the Paris Sevens, Ireland are next in action in Marcoussis in France for the second round of the Rugby Europe Sevens Grand Prix Series (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 takes place in Lodz, Poland on September 8-9.

For the Ireland men to become a core team on the World Series, they must be one of the top three ranked sides at the end of the Rugby Europe Grand Prix series. This will see them qualify for next year’s World Series qualifying tournament in Hong Kong – they lost at the semi-final stage of this season’s qualifier in April. The winners of 2019 qualifier in Hong Kong will claim a place on the 2019/20 World Series.

HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series – Paris Sevens Results

Follow the Ireland Women’s and Men’s Sevens teams 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.

– Paris Sevens photos by Neil Kennedy

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Squad (2017/18 HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series – Paris Sevens, Stade Jean-Bouin, Paris, France, Saturday, June 9-Sunday, June 10):

Sean Cribbin (Suttonians)
Jordan Conroy (Buccaneers)
Shane Daly (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Billy Dardis (UCD) (capt)
Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster)
Terry Kennedy (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
Adam Leavy (Lansdowne/Connacht)
Alex McHenry (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Harry McNulty (UCD)
Bryan Mollen (Dublin University)
Jimmy O’Brien (UCD/Leinster)
James O’Donovan (Old Wesley)
Greg O’Shea (Shannon)
Mark Roche (Blackrock College)

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Results – Paris Sevens:

Saturday, June 9 –

Pool C:

Ireland 14 Spain 5, Stade Jean-Bouin
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Bryan Mollen, Jordan Conroy; Cons: Sean Cribbin 2

Team: Harry McNulty, Shane Daly, Alex McHenry, Billy Dardis (capt), Jimmy O’Brien, Terry Kennedy, Jordan Conroy.

Subs used: Sean Cribbin, Bryan Mollen, James O’Donovan. Not used: Greg O’Shea, Adam Leavy.

Ireland 19 Wales 19, Stade Jean-Bouin
Scorers: Ireland Tries: Jordan Conroy, Bryan Mollen, Terry Kennedy; Cons: Mark Roche 2 

Team: Harry McNulty, Shane Daly, Alex McHenry, Mark Roche (capt), Jimmy O’Brien, Bryan Mollen, Jordan Conroy.

Subs used: Terry Kennedy, Greg O’Shea, Adam Leavy, James O’Donovan. Not used: Sean Cribbin.

Ireland 24 Australia 14, Stade Jean-Bouin
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Terry Kennedy, Mark Roche 2, Adam Leavy; Cons: Mark Roche 2

Team: Harry McNulty, Shane Daly, Alex McHenry, Mark Roche (capt), Jimmy O’Brien, Bryan Mollen, Jordan Conroy.

Subs used: Terry Kennedy, Greg O’Shea, James O’Donovan, Adam Leavy. Not used: Sean Cribbin.

Day 1 Round-Up – Ireland Men Take Australia Scalp To March Into Paris Quarter-Finals

Sunday, June 10 –

Cup Quarter-Final: Ireland 5 Canada 19, Stade Jean-Bouin
Scorers: Ireland: Try: Jordan Conroy

Team: Harry McNulty, Shane Daly, Alex McHenry, Mark Roche (capt), Jimmy O’Brien, Bryan Mollen, Jordan Conroy.

Subs used: Adam Leavy, Greg O’Shea. Not used: Terry Kennedy, Sean Cribbin, James O’Donovan.

5th Place Semi-Final: Fiji 38 Ireland 5, Stade Jean-Bouin
Scorers: Ireland: Try: Adam Leavy

Team: Harry McNulty, Shane Daly, Alex McHenry, Mark Roche (capt), Jimmy O’Brien, Bryan Mollen, Greg O’Shea.

Subs used: Sean Cribbin, James O’Donovan, Adam Leavy.