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Narrow All Blacks Defeat Ends Ireland’s Quarter-Final Hopes In Vancouver

Jordan Conroy

Ireland's Jordan Conroy brought his tally of World Series tries to 26 for the season. ©Mike Lee/KLC Fotos/World Rugby

Ireland pushed current HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series leaders New Zealand all the way in an entertaining 57-point shootout at the Canada Sevens on Saturday, but a second Pool defeat of the day ended Anthony Eddy‘s side’s quarter-final hopes in Vancouver.

Backed by a vocal green contingent inside BC Place Stadium, Ireland exchanged blows with the All Blacks Sevens throughout a high-scoring contest under the Saturday night lights but New Zealand found another gear to finish strongly and run in two late tries for a 33-24 victory.

The defeat, coupled with a disappointing last-minute loss to Spain earlier in the day, meant Ireland finished third in Pool C after the opening day of the sixth World Series leg in Canada, with Eddy’s side dropping into a ninth place Play-off quarter-final against France on Sunday morning (10.05am local time/5.05pm Irish time).

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A performance brimming with intent and physicality against the All Blacks may not have yielded the result Ireland required to advance to a second consecutive quarter-final after reaching the last eight in Los Angeles last week, but it was further evidence that Eddy’s side can more than compete with the leading sides on the World Series.

Just as they did during last weekend’s draw with South Africa, Ireland were clinical with possession and another Jack Kelly double, Liam Turner‘s maiden World Series score and Jordan Conroy‘s second-half try put Eddy’s charges 24-21 in front heading into the final exchanges.

But the All Blacks responded emphatically and having worked ferociously hard to put themselves in a winning position, Ireland were unable to hold out in the closing minutes as Vilimoni Koroi and Amanaki Nicole both went over to seal top spot in Pool C for Clark Laidlaw‘s outfit.

It was a disappointing end to the day for Ireland who had set out with their sights firmly on a quarter-final berth but consistency remains a primary work-on and a slow start against Spain in the campaign opener ultimately cost them dearly here, particularly after they had rebounded strongly to beat Kenya 14-12 in their second Pool outing.

Foster Horan

A succession of damaging missed tackles gifted their European rivals scoring opportunities and they were duly taken, with Manuel Sainz-Trapaga going over after the final hooter to seal a 28-26 win for Spain, who now face host nation Canada in Sunday’s quarter-final.

Eddy’s men were much better against a powerful Kenya outfit who had beaten Ireland comfortably in LA last time out as Mark Roche and Graham Curtis crossed in the first period in a hard-fought 14-12 victory, setting up that shootout against New Zealand in Saturday’s super session.

Despite conceding early to Akuila Rokolisoa, Ireland remained composed and with the fit-again Foster Horan to the fore, registered first-half tries through former Ireland Under-20 Grand Slam winner Turner and Kelly, who had another big impact in the green jersey.

The game threatened to get away from Ireland as firstly Caleb Clarke and Rokolisoa’s second put the All Blacks firmly in the driving seat, but back came Ireland through Conroy, who now has 26 World Series tries for the season after scoring two against Spain earlier.

When Kelly broke through for his second of the night shortly after, Ireland held a three-point lead deep into the second half and the thousands of Irish fans in the BC Place Stadium found their voice only for the All Blacks to come roaring back to set up their own quarter-final showdown with Fiji.

Ireland, meanwhile, must refocus on their Play-off tie against France as they look to finish this March double-header off strongly and continue to build important momentum heading towards London and Paris in May and then the Olympic Repechage tournament in June.

Sunday’s action from the Canada Sevens is live on Sky Sports and you can follow Ireland’s progress on IrishRugby.ie and on the IRFU social media platforms.

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS – Canada 7s Results:

Saturday, March 7 –

Pool C:

Spain 28 Ireland 26, BC Place Stadium

Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Jordan Conroy (2), Terry Kennedy, Foster Horan; Con: Billy Dardis 3

HT: Spain 14 Ireland 12

Team: Adam Leavy, Harry McNulty, Jack Kelly, Billy Dardis (capt), Foster Horan, Terry Kennedy, Jordan Conroy.

Subs used: Greg O’Shea, Liam Turner. Not used: Mark Roche, Hugo Lennox, Graham Curtis.

Ireland 14 Kenya 12, BC Place Stadium

Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Mark Roche, Graham Curtis; Con: Mark Roche 2 

HT: Ireland 14 Kenya 12

Team: Harry McNulty (capt), Jack Kelly, Liam Turner, Foster Horan, Jordan Conroy, Mark Roche, Hugo Lennox.

Subs used: Billy Dardis, Adam Leavy, Graham Curtis. Not used: Terry Kennedy, Greg O’Shea.

Ireland 24 New Zealand 33, BC Place Stadium

Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Mark Roche, Graham Curtis; Con: Mark Roche 2 

HT: Ireland 14 Kenya 12

Team: Harry McNulty (capt), Jack Kelly, Liam Turner, Foster Horan, Jordan Conroy, Mark Roche, Hugo Lennox.

Subs used: Billy Dardis, Terry Kennedy, Adam Leavy, Graham Curtis. Not used: Greg O’Shea.

Sunday, March 8 – 

Ninth place Play-off quarter-final:

  • Ireland v France, 10.05am local time/5.05pm Irish time.