The Ireland Men’s Sevens team recorded a 12th place finish at the Dubai Sevens in what was their first HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series event as a core side on the circuit.
After beating Scotland in dramatic fashion in their final pool game on Saturday, Anthony Eddy’s men went in search of a second tournament victory in the 11th-12th place play-off, but went down 19-15 to European rivals Spain at The Sevens Stadium.
Although Jordan Conroy scored his seventh try of the tournament to give Ireland hope of staging a late fight-back, there was to be no repeat of his match-winning heroics from Friday night as the Spaniards hung on in nail-biting fashion.
It was still a weekend to remember for Tullamore man Conroy who finished as the Dubai leg’s top try scorer and was picked on the HSBC Dream Team. He was also second on the DHL Impact Player list behind South Africa’s Rosko Specman.
Ireland were well connected in defence early on, gradually picking up more possession. The breakthrough for Spain came in the fifth minute when referee Richard Haughton ruled that an Irish penalty advantage had played out – he said Greg O’Shea had ‘a one-on-one’ from his kick chase – and a clever counter led to Manuel Sainz-Trapaga scoring.
The same player made it 12-0, getting over in the left corner after a turnover penalty. However, Ireland had enough time to strike back before half-time, Terry Kennedy, Conroy and Aaron O’Sullivan were all prominent in attack before replacement Hugo Lennox was released to scamper in behind the posts.
Captain Billy Dardis’ conversion made it a five-point game, and Ireland were the more threatening side early in the second period with a sniping Lennox and Adam Leavy, who collected a Dardis cross-field kick, leading their charge into the Spanish 22.
After O’Sullivan was tackled into touch just a few metres out, Spain built from deep for their third try, a couple of slick offloads advancing them down the right wing and Sainz-Trapaga’s bouncing pass sat up for replacement Juan Ramos to go over untouched. Pablo Fontes converted to open up a 19-7 lead.
Ireland stayed in the hunt as an overthrown Spanish lineout was punished by a fine breakaway score from the possession-starved Conroy. Dardis’ conversion whittled Spain’s lead down to five points again, and a last-gasp penalty offered the men in green the chance to push for a comeback win.
Yet, it was an ultimately frustrating finish for Eddy’s charges as Dardis’ well-weighted kick through, which bounced up on the edge of the Spanish 22, was knocked on by the onrushing Conroy with the try-line in his sights. It was well past the final hooter and a relieved Spain could celebrate.
You can keep up with Ireland’s progress using the hashtag #IreM7s and on the Irish Rugby social media channels. They move on to the second leg in Cape Town next week. The 2020 Ireland Sevens jersey is now available to buy online from Elverys Intersport, official sports retailer of the IRFU.
IRELAND MEN’S SQUAD (2019/20 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series – Dubai 7s, The Sevens Stadium, Dubai, Thursday, December 5-Saturday, December 7):
Aaron O’Sullivan (Blackrock College/Leinster) *
Adam Leavy (Lansdowne)
Billy Dardis (Terenure College) (capt)
Bryan Mollen (Blackrock College)
Foster Horan (Lansdowne)
Greg O’Shea (Shannon)
Harry McNulty (UCD)
Hugo Lennox (Skerries)
Jack Kelly (Dublin University)
John O’Donnell (Lansdowne)
Jordan Conroy (Buccaneers)
Mark Roche (Lansdowne)
Terry Kennedy (St. Mary’s College)
* Denotes Ireland Sevens debutant
IRELAND MEN’S DUBAI 7s RESULTS:
Thursday, December 5:
USA 24 Ireland 19, The Sevens Stadium, Dubai
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Aaron O’Sullivan, Terry Kennedy, Jack Kelly; Cons: Billy Dardis, Mark Roche
HT: USA 12 Ireland 7
Team: Harry McNulty, Foster Horan, Aaron O’Sullivan, Billy Dardis (capt), Hugo Lennox, Terry Kennedy, Jordan Conroy.
Subs used: Adam Leavy, Jack Kelly, Mark Roche, Greg O’Shea. Not used: Peter Maher.
Friday, December 6:
Australia 45 Ireland 21, The Sevens Stadium, Dubai
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Jordan Conroy, Terry Kennedy, Billy Dardis; Cons: Billy Dardis 3
HT: Australia 26 Ireland 14
Team: Jack Kelly, Foster Horan, Aaron O’Sullivan, Billy Dardis (capt), Hugo Lennox, Terry Kennedy, Jordan Conroy.
Subs used: Adam Leavy, John O’Donnell, Greg O’Shea, Peter Maher, Mark Roche.
Scotland 29 Ireland 31, The Sevens Stadium, Dubai
Scorers: Ireland: Jordan Conroy 5; Cons: Billy Dardis 2, Mark Roche
HT: Scotland 12 Ireland 19
Team: Jack Kelly, Adam Leavy, John O’Donnell, Billy Dardis (capt), Greg O’Shea, Terry Kennedy, Jordan Conroy.
Subs used: Mark Roche, Aaron O’Sullivan, Hugo Lennox. Not used: Foster Horan, Peter Maher.
Saturday, December 7:
11th-12th Place Play-Off: Ireland 14 Spain 19, The Sevens Stadium, Dubai
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Hugo Lennox, Jordan Conroy; Cons: Billy Dardis 2
HT: Ireland 7 Spain 12
Team: John O’Donnell, Adam Leavy, Jack Kelly, Mark Roche, Greg O’Shea, Terry Kennedy, Jordan Conroy.
Subs used: Billy Dardis (capt), Hugo Lennox, Aaron O’Sullivan, Peter Maher. Not used: Foster Horan.
IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS – World Series Schedule:
December 5-7, 2019: The Sevens Stadium, Dubai, UAE (12th Place/5 Points)
December 13-15: Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town, South Africa
January 25-26, 2020: FMG Stadium, Hamilton, New Zealand
February 1-2: Bankwest Stadium, Sydney, Australia
February 29-March 1: Dignity Health Sports Park, Los Angeles, USA
March 7-8: BC Place Stadium, Vancouver, Canada
April 3-5: Hong Kong Stadium, Hong Kong
April 11-12: National Stadium, Singapore
May 23-24: Twickenham Stadium, London, England
May 30-31: Stade Jean-Bouin, Paris, France
* All fixture details correct at time of publication/subject to change