The end scoreline doesn’t necessarily reflect how far Ireland pushed the reigning HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series champions Fiji in this Cape Town quarter-final, but in the end the Pacific Islanders’ experience and power told as they advanced through to the semi-finals.
Jordan Conroy continued his prolific try-scoring form to give Ireland an early lead and Anthony Eddy‘s side were firmly in the contest deep into the second half, but a couple of missed opportunities proved costly as Fiji then finished strongly to seal a 31-12 victory.
When the initial disappointment subsides, and certainly Ireland felt they could have upset the odds here on the back of an impressive Pool campaign, Eddy’s side will reflect on a hugely progressive week in South Africa in what was just their second World Series tournament as a core side.
Victories over Australia and Samoa, and a draw with Kenya, saw Ireland advance through to the knockout stages unbeaten and as Pool winners and with a bit more accuracy and precision here, there was an opportunity to progress even further at the Cape Town Stadium.
As it is, there are still plenty of positives to take from this December double-header, not least the way in which Ireland bounced back from the disappointment of Dubai, as attention now turns to January’s third and fourth legs in Hamilton and Sydney.
Conroy scored his 11th try of the season inside the opening four minutes as the home South African crowd got behind Ireland but despite enjoying the majority of first-half possession, Eddy’s side were punished as Fiji led 14-7 at the break.
A strong start to the second period saw Terry Kennedy bring Ireland back to within two points with another brilliant individual score, but Fiji flexed their muscle thereafter to pull away with three late tries, two of which came from Waisea Nacuqu.
Ireland finish the Cape Town Sevens in sixth place, earning them 12 valuable points for the overall World Series standings.