Ireland Men’s Sevens responded strongly to the disappointment of an opening game defeat to Canada at the New Zealand Sevens to keep their semi-final hopes alive with a four-try victory over Spain at the FMG Stadium Waikato on Saturday afternoon.
Having suffered a last-gasp 26-21 loss to the Canadians in their Pool C opener, Anthony Eddy‘s side needed a big response against European rivals Spain and Ireland duly delivered with a 28-17 win to give themselves a fighting chance of advancing through to the knockout rounds on Sunday.
Foster Horan, Jordan Conroy, Terry Kennedy and Harry McNulty crossed for Ireland in Hamilton to ensure Eddy’s charges go into Sunday’s final Pool game against France buoyed by winning momentum but also in the knowledge there is considerable room for improvement in their performance.
As there are no quarter-finals at this third leg of the HSBC World Rugby Men’s Sevens Series, only the Pool winners advance and ahead of the final round of games, Ireland (four points) sit third in Pool C behind Canada and France (both five points).
“It was a good, hard-earned win against Spain,” Horan said. “We’re looking forward to a big game against France now and hopefully we can get the win there as there is a lot to improve on going into it.
“We’ll give it our best crack tomorrow and see where we stand then after all the Pool games are finished.”
Ireland got off to a fast start against Canada on Saturday morning as Kennedy again showed his dazzling footwork and acceleration with an early seven-pointer but Eddy’s charges found themselves behind at the break as Andrew Coe and Jake Thiel pegged them back.
Horan’s breakaway score on the restart restored scoreboard parity and while Conroy’s 13th-minute try did the same after Nathan Hirayama finished in the near corner following a sustained period of Canadian pressure, Ireland were hit with the sucker-punch on the final hooter.
With Conroy bursting down the right, Ireland were pushing for a late winner but an intercept saw Canada turn over possession and they struck on the counter-attack through Phil Berna to snatch a last-gasp victory.
Using the frustration of that result, Ireland rebounded in winning fashion later in the day as a strong second-half display saw them overcome Spain as Horan and Kennedy notched their second tries of the tournament and Conroy scored his 13th of the campaign.
Ireland know they will need Spain to do them a favour against Canada on Sunday but the focus for the Billy Dardis-led side is on the challenge posed by France in their final Pool outing at 11.29am local time/10.29pm Irish time (live on Sky Sports Action).