The Ireland Men’s Sevens team won the Dubai 7s International Invitational tournament this evening, overcoming the South Africa 7s Academy 28-21 in an exciting Cup final at the Sevens Stadium.
Buccaneers flyer Jordan Conroy was the man of the moment as he scored a last-gasp try on the full-time hooter to hand the Ireland men their first ever title win at the tournament. Twelve months ago they finished fifth having lost to the South Africans at the quarter-final stage.
It was nip-and-tuck throughout the much-anticipated Cup decider with Ireland soaking up some early pressure before Conroy spotted a chink in the South Africa 7s Academy defence to run in a third-minute opener at the posts, converted by captain Billy Dardis.
The South Africans replied two minutes later to square it up at seven points apiece. Ireland’s initial effort to hit back ended in disappointment as a tapped penalty from halfway was foiled when Conroy was tackled and knocked on.
Nonetheless, some excellent work by all seven players resulted in a timely second try for a 14-7 half-time lead. Greg O’Shea tapped and went from a penalty and Terry Kennedy, Adam Leavy and Harry McNulty all showed good hands before John O’Donnell outfoxed a defender out wide to touch down. Dardis slotted the conversion for good measure.
The South Africans had the upper hand when the second half got underway as one of their speedsters, despite being tap-tackled by Leavy, successfully regained his feet to run in the levelling try. With Ireland leaking more penalties, they fell 21-14 behind with the Academy outfit managing to suck in the defence.
But Stan McDowell’s charges built for a big finish when Leavy brilliantly broke out of his own 22, raiding up the left wing under pressure from three defenders and stepping inside to complete a top-class individual try under the posts.
A costly yellow card for a tip tackle on Kennedy left the South Africans down to six players with two minutes remaining, and Ireland conjured up the match-winning try when lineout ball was spread wide and passes from Kennedy and Iwan Hughes sent Conroy over in the right corner to seal a 28-21 triumph.
Earlier in the day, Dardis and his team-mates had beaten two French teams to reach the final. A three-try first half gave them a 21-5 interval lead over the French Military Sevens team. Their hard running wore down the defence and McNulty emerged as a key figure, pressurising in the lineout and at the breakdown.
The UCD clubman’s hard work led to a steal and Conroy was fed to go over in the right corner for an unconverted try. Ireland added one more five-pointer en route to the semi-final stage, McNulty intercepting a pass and the ball was spread wide from Bryan Mollen to Old Belvedere youngster Peter Maher who worked hard to ground the ball and confirm a 31-5 win.
The temperate showed 31 degrees when Ireland kicked off against Froggies Midi Olympique with the prize of a Cup final appearance on the main pitch on offer. The French side took a seven-point lead from a speculative kick before the men in green found their rhythm in attack.
McNulty’s impressive aerial work on restarts gave them a solid base to work off with O’Donnell also carrying well and continually making yards. They did leave chances behind them, but three tries had them 19-7 to the good by half-time.
Conroy claimed a first half brace, muscling through a couple of tackles for the first and benefiting from his team-mates’ quick hands for the second. Sandwiched in between was a well-taken try from skipper Dardis whose neat footwork got him over by the posts.
McNulty’s claiming of the second half’s kick-off set the wheels in motion for Conroy’s third try of the game, with O’Shea doing well to set him up. Kennedy then booted a ball through and won the race to retrieve it five metres out, before replacement Hugo Lennox threw a terrific dummy and created some space to put Conroy away for his fourth score, converted by Hughes for a 38-5 final scoreline.
McDowell’s men had enjoyed a clean sweep of pool victories in day one, including scoring 45 unanswered points against Russia in the opening round. They hit the ground running with Kennedy scoring on the right wing and O’Donnell doing likewise on the left in the fourth minute. O’Shea then carried strongly before the ball was shifted wide for the jet-heeled Conroy to make it 19-0.
A quick tap paved the way for O’Donnell to double his tally, releasing the ball after a tackle and regathering it to score with Dardis adding the extras. Leading 26-0 at half-time, the reigning European champions kept converting their chances as Kennedy scooted clear to score from another quickly-taken penalty.
Ulster Academy back Hughes was sprung from the bench and scored with his first touch, showing very good feet and then spotting a gap to touch down and convert. A big tackle from Mollen led to a five-metre scrum late on and Hughes and Lennox moved the ball wide for fellow replacement Maher to notch try number seven, expertly converted from the touchline by Hughes.
Czech Republic outfit ASC Dukla provided the opposition in the second round, and Maher continued where he left off against Russia. He won a turnover penalty, tapped and threw a dummy before cutting inside to score to the right of the posts.
Conroy doubled Ireland’s lead soon after, outpacing the defence after Dardis had intercepted a pass, and another turnover-winning tackle from Mollen teed up Ireland’s third try. Maher went close before possession was moved infield where McNulty fed Conroy for his second of the game.
Mollen deservedly got on the scoresheet after Ireland had used lineout ball to attack out to the right and then swing it back left. McNulty won the restart at the start of the second half, the ball moving at pace to set up Conroy to complete his hat-trick on the right. Dukla’s consolation try was cancelled out by Leavy’s in-and-out run and pacy finish past the last defender, capping off a 36-5 win.
Kennedy matched Conroy’s hat-trick exploits in the final game on day one – a 26-7 success against the France Development side. He scored a length-of-the-field try after just 90 seconds to get Ireland up and running.
Conroy did the donkey work for the second try, breaking from outside his own 22 and offloading out of a tackle for Kennedy to finish in the right corner. O’Donnell thwarted a French attack by bundling a player into touch, and Ireland then used a lineout to send Conroy over out wide, making it 19-0 at half-time.
The French hit back with a try from a training ground move and a series of penalties had them hunting for a second score. However, Ireland slammed the door shut with Kennedy’s third try, which saw him dart clear from halfway via turnover ball. The wind-assisted Dardis nailed the touchline conversion.
The Ireland men will be hoping they will be competing in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournament this time next year in Dubai. They are aiming to claim a place as the 15th core team on next season’s series at the qualifying tournament in Hong Kong in April.
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 Dubai 7s Men’s International Invitational Tournament, Sevens Stadium, Dubai, UAE, Friday, November 30-Saturday, December 1):
Jordan Conroy (Buccaneers)
Jack Daly (Garryowen/Munster)
Billy Dardis (Terenure College) (capt)
Iwan Hughes (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
Terry Kennedy (St. Mary’s College)
Adam Leavy (Lansdowne)
Hugo Lennox (Clontarf)
Peter Maher (Old Belvedere)
Harry McNulty (UCD)
Bryan Mollen (Blackrock College)
John O’Donnell (Lansdowne)
Greg O’Shea (Shannon)
IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS RESULTS – DUBAI INTERNATIONAL INVITATIONAL:
Friday, November 30 –
Ireland 45 Russia 0, Sevens Stadium pitch 7
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Terry Kennedy 2, John O’Donnell 2, Jordan Conroy, Iwan Hughes, Peter Maher; Cons: Billy Dardis 3, Iwan Hughes 2
Ireland 36 ASC Dukla 5, Sevens Stadium pitch 7
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Peter Maher, Jordan Conroy 3, Bryan Mollen, Adam Leavy; Cons: Billy Dardis 3
Ireland 26 France Development 7, Sevens Stadium pitch 2
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Terry Kennedy 3, Jordan Conroy; Cons: Billy Dardis 3
Saturday, December 1 –
Cup Quarter-Final: Ireland 31 French Military Sevens 5, Sevens Stadium pitch 5
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Terry Kennedy 2, Billy Dardis, Jordan Conroy, Peter Maher; Cons: Billy Dardis 4
Cup Semi-Final: Ireland 38 Froggies Midi Olympique 7, Sevens Stadium pitch 5
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Jordan Conroy 4, Billy Dardis, Terry Kennedy; Cons: Billy Dardis 3, Iwan Hughes
Cup Final: South Africa 7s Academy 21 Ireland 28, Sevens Stadium pitch 1
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Jordan Conroy 2, John O’Donnell, Adam Leavy; Con: Billy Dardis 4