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McGrath Try Sees Ireland Men Progress As Pool Winners

McGrath Try Sees Ireland Men Progress As Pool Winners

McGrath Try Sees Ireland Men Progress As Pool Winners

Mick McGrath came off the bench to score Ireland’s match-winning try against England and maintain their unbeaten start to the Rugby Europe Sevens Grand Prix Series tournament in Marcoussis today.

The winners of the opening leg in Moscow, Ireland kept up their winning form at France’s Centre National de Rugby where they strung together victories over Poland (52-0), Spain (40-0) and England (21-14) to finish top of Pool A.

Dublin University’s Bryan Mollen touched down in each game, notching four of Ireland’s 17 tries during the pool stages, as Stan McDowell’s side set up a Cup quarter-final clash with Portugal, the second best third-placed team, tomorrow morning (kick-off 10am local time/9am Irish time).

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Although Terry Kennedy and Jordan Conroy, who together led the try-scoring in Moscow, were notable absentees, Ireland still had plenty of firepower at their disposal in Marcoussis. They flooded through for an immediate try against Poland, with Hugo Keenan first to the breaking ball from the kick-off and setting up the onrushing Mollen to dash in under the posts.

Robert Baloucoune was next on the scoresheet, Mollen and Keenan combining to release the Ulster youngster from halfway and he had too much pace from the retreating defence. Try number three quickly followed as captain Billy Dardis, who had converted the first two, attacked the line and linked with John O’Donnell who cut in off the left wing and showed a nice turn of pace to go in behind the posts for a 21-0 scoreline.

Although a Baloucoune knock-on in the tackle thwarted a subsequent attack, Harry McNulty followed up by forcing a penalty at the breakdown and O’Donnell’s quick tap led to UCD clubman McNulty running in a well-executed fourth try.

28-0 at half-time became 35-0 shortly after the restart, as kick receiver Dardis fed Mollen inside the Irish 22 and he took off, burning away from three defenders for a terrific individual try, converted by the skipper. Poland got their big carriers on the ball and went close to scoring – replacement Greg O’Shea’s tackle and work at the breakdown won a relieving penalty for Ireland.

Another break downfield was rewarded with a try, this time Shane Daly passing out of contact and replacement Adam Leavy slipping away from a couple defenders to canter in under the posts from 70 metres out. A nippy run from Dardis teed up Keenan to go over in the right corner, and after the returning Mick McGrath had gone close, fellow replacement Mark Roche sniped over for close range to complete the eight-try 52-0 success.

Ireland’s second round encounter with Spain was a slow-burning affair, the best early chance seeing Daly tackled into touch. The deadlock was broken in the fourth minute by the Munster Academy player who crossed from close range after Leavy had got his boot to a loose ball and O’Shea supplied the scoring pass.

Dardis converted following a prolonged delay as Spain’s Facundo Munilla was stretchered off, and possession switched between both halves before Daly intercepted a pass and the ball was worked wide to the left where Leavy outpaced a defender to make it 14-0, entering the final minute of the first half.

Keenan won the restart to keep the pressure on the Spanish and Dardis’ quick tap and eye for a gap rewarded him with Ireland’s third try which he converted himself. O’Donnell had a score ruled out for a forward pass from McNulty, while a breathless passage of play saw turnovers aplenty and a real arm wrestle at the breakdown.

Replacement Baloucoune got the scoreboard moving again with a fine run up the right touchline and dive in at the corner, regaining his feet after an initial tap tackle. Ireland finished with a late flourish as O’Shea stepped inside a defender and passed out of a tackle for Roche to touch down, and the latter used a close-in penalty to send Mollen over for the sixth and final try.

The England squad included seven players who were part of their silver medal-winning side in Paris recently. Also using this tournament as part of their build-up to the Sevens World Cup in three weeks’ time, they swept past Spain (31-7) and Poland (45-7) to set up a pool decider against Ireland.

England’s defence proved tough to break down early on, Baloucoune having a couple of cuts up the left wing and the white shirts also tackling well closer in to their posts. Ireland got on the board in the third minute, Dardis sucking in two defenders to give McNulty some precious space and the talismanic forward took a return pass from O’Donnell and shrugged off two defenders to raid in behind the posts.

Dardis converted McNulty’s effort before Tom Bowen’s excellent left wing break saw England quickly respond, levelling it up at seven-all. Having won the restart, they edged ahead thanks to Will Muir’s converted score which saw him evade the clutches of O’Donnell.

Crucially, Ireland hit back just after the half-time hooter with Keenan showing great fight in the tackle, slipping away from two defenders near the left touchline before feeding the supporting Mollen who darted clear to score close to the posts. Dardis’ conversion squared things up at 14 points apiece.

Ollie Lindsay-Hague was England’s danger man on the resumption, threatening from a kick through and also exploiting some space wide on the right. However, Ireland’s hard graft in defence laid the foundations for their match-winning score, replacement McGrath taking a tremendous line onto McNulty’s hanging pass and blazing in between two defenders and eluding a third to restore the seven-point advantage.

England were far from done and Roche had to react smartly to tackle Bowen into touch as he threatened to run in a breakaway try. Keenan also came up trumps with a key tackle in the dying seconds, forcing the ball forward out of Bowen’s hands, and a closing penalty allowed Roche to kick the ball dead and seal a hard-fought triumph.

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.

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 (2018 Rugby Europe Sevens Grand Prix Series – Round 2, Centre National de Rugby, Marcoussis, France, Saturday, June 30-Sunday, July 1):

Robert Baloucoune (Enniskillen/Ulster)
Shane Daly (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Billy Dardis (UCD) (capt)
Foster Horan (Lansdowne)
Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster)
Adam Leavy (Lansdowne)
Mick McGrath (Clontarf)
Harry McNulty (UCD)
Bryan Mollen (Dublin University)
John O’Donnell (Lansdowne)
Greg O’Shea (Shannon)
Mark Roche (Blackrock College)


Saturday, June 30 –

Pool A:

Ireland 52 Poland 0, Centre National de Rugby, Marcoussis
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Bryan Mollen 2, Robert Baloucoune, John O’Donnell, Harry McNulty, Adam Leavy, Hugo Keenan, Mark Roche; Cons: Billy Dardis 6

Team: Harry McNulty, Shane Daly, John O’Donnell, Billy Dardis (capt), Hugo Keenan, Bryan Mollen, Robert Baloucoune.

Subs: Foster Horan, Mick McGrath, Mark Roche, Adam Leavy, Greg O’Shea.

Ireland 40 Spain 0, Centre National de Rugby, Marcoussis
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Shane Daly, Adam Leavy, Billy Dardis, Robert Baloucoune, Mark Roche, Bryan Mollen; Cons: Billy Dardis 3, Mark Roche 2

Team: Harry McNulty, Shane Daly, John O’Donnell, Billy Dardis (capt), Hugo Keenan, Greg O’Shea, Adam Leavy.

Subs: Foster Horan, Mick McGrath, Mark Roche, Bryan Mollen, Robert Baloucoune.

Ireland 21 England 14, Centre National de Rugby, Marcoussis
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Harry McNulty, Bryan Mollen, Mick McGrath; Cons: Billy Dardis 2, Mark Roche

Team: Harry McNulty, Shane Daly, John O’Donnell, Billy Dardis (capt), Hugo Keenan, Bryan Mollen, Robert Baloucoune.

Subs: Foster Horan, Mick McGrath, Mark Roche, Adam Leavy, Greg O’Shea.

Sunday, July 1 –

Cup Quarter-Final: Ireland v Portugal, Centre National de Rugby, Marcoussis, 10am local time/9am Irish time

The full results, fixtures and pools are available on the Rugby Europe tournament page.