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Ireland Men Finish Fourth In World Series Opener

Ireland Men Finish Fourth In World Series Opener

Ireland Men Finish Fourth In World Series Opener

Shane Jennings runs in Ireland's opening try of their Cup quarter-final win over Hong Kong (Photo: P Yates/World Rugby)

Hampered by injuries on day two, Ireland’s young guns still battled their way to an impressive fourth place finish at the HSBC Canada Sevens tournament in Vancouver.

Photo Gallery: Nine Debutants For Ireland In Vancouver

It was Ireland’s best ever placing in a World Series event as a core team, with some possible stars of the future among the nine debutants involved across Saturday and Sunday.

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Munster Academy winger Conor Phillips caught the eye with four tries, while Liam Turner, Mark Roche, Sean Kearns, Gavin Mullin and Shane Jennings all scored two each.

Another Academy talent, Ulster’s Ben Moxham, crossed in extra-time to send Ireland into the last-four, handing Hong Kong a nail-biting 12-7 defeat.

However, they came up short against Kenya (38-5) and Great Britain (24-14) in their final games, those scorelines being reflective of the lack of top level Sevens experience in the fledgling Irish squad.

Anthony Eddy’s youngsters came to Vancouver with a collective haul of just 22 World Series caps, compared to the Kenyans’ 195 and Britain’s 255.

So, plenty of valuable lessons learned against Olympic-standard opposition, and they will do it all again in the 2021 World Series season finale in Edmonton next weekend.

Ireland began day two without injured duo Roche and Ed Kelly, meaning Chris Cosgrave, the 13th man, was drafted onto the bench for his World Series bow.

Coached this week by James Topping, the men in green had only three points to spare when they faced Hong Kong in the pool stages, and they fell behind in the rematch to an early Max Denmark try.

Denmark showed his impressive pace and power, shrugging off a series of defenders and getting the ball down despite Jennings’ last-ditch challenge. Russell Webb converted.

Captain Bryan Mollen stole a lineout, giving his side a chance to attack the wide channels. As they built momentum, Turner drew a high tackle from Callum McCullough who was promptly sin-binned.

Hong Kong leaked a couple more penalties before Jennings was fed on the left wing and used a big fend to break free and score with six minutes gone. Sean Cribbin’s conversion tied things up.

Seven-all is how it stayed, with an intense second half containing very few chances. The freshly-introduced Cosgrave broke and kicked through, but Mullin was unable to control it a few metres out.

Cosgrave tracked back to prevent Webb from scoring at the other end, and a late Irish surge was foiled by a knock-on, at the end of an exhaustive attacking spell.

Into extra-time, Ireland won the toss and retrieved Cribbin’s restart kick thanks to good work by Mollen and Niall Comerford.

Mullin and Cosgrave both threaded kicks through, forcing Hong Kong back into their own 22. Comerford put pressure on at the breakdown to win a penalty.

It all paid dividends when Mullin, using some nice footwork, passed out of a tackle for Mollen to set up the decisive score for Moxham, one of three current Ireland Under-20 internationals on show.

It was a one-sided affair in the Cup semi-final unfortunately, Kenya showcasing their power runners and top-class finishing to emerge as convincing 33-point winners.

Willy Ambaka flew in under the posts after just 19 seconds, Daniel Taabu used a hand-off to score in the fourth minute, and Alvin Otieno thundered over from an Ambaka offload.

Phillips was being well marshalled by the Kenyans, who were good value for their 19-0 half-time lead. Levy Amunga tore through a gap for the Shujaa Sevens’ fourth try.

Ireland clawed back five points soon after, a couple of nice offloads from Cribbin and Comerford putting Phillips away for a 60-metre run-in from the left.

However, as Irish legs tired on the back of their quarter-final exertions, Kenya closed out a comfortable victory with two more scores from the bulldozing ‘Buffa’ Otieno and replacement Mark Kwemoi.

The attritional nature of such a high-octane competition struck again when Mullin was ruled out of the bronze final against Britain. That left Topping with just ten fit players.

Britain built the early momentum, taking a 17-7 interval lead with Frederick Roddick, ex-France Sevens international Calum Randle and Paddy Kelly all dotting down.

Ireland’s fight-back began past the hooter, a darting run from Phillips getting them into range before Jennings slickly sent the Leinster-capped Turner over, to the left of the posts.

Cribbin converted and also added the extras to a Kearns try, but that came in the last play of the second half. By that stage Britain were out of reach thanks to a second Randle score.

Ireland, who lost Phillips to a HIA, failed to profit from Robbie Fergusson’s sin-binning, and Randle scooted clear up the right touchline in the 11th minute.

A last-gasp consolation score was just reward for a valiant Irish effort, replacement Kearns finishing smartly as he slipped past two defenders in the British 22.

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Squad (Canada Sevens, Vancouver and Edmonton, September 2021):

Niall Comerford (UCD RFC/Leinster)
Chris Cosgrave (UCD RFC/Leinster)
Sean Cribbin (Suttonians RFC)
Shane Jennings (Buccaneers RFC/Connacht)
Sean Kearns (Ireland Sevens)
Ed Kelly (Dublin University FC)
Steven Kilgallen (UCD RFC)
Bryan Mollen (Blackrock College RFC) (capt)
Ben Moxham (Ballymena RFC/Ulster)
Gavin Mullin (UCD RFC)
Conor Phillips (Young Munster RFC/Munster)
Mark Roche (Lansdowne FC)
Liam Turner (Dublin University FC/Leinster)


Saturday, September 18 –


IRELAND 17 HONG KONG 14, BC Place, Vancouver
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Ed Kelly, Conor Phillips, Liam Turner; Con: Sean Cribbin
Hong Kong: Tries: Liam Herbert, Russell Webb; Cons: Russell Webb 2
HT: Ireland 12 Hong Kong 7

Team: Bryan Mollen (capt), Liam Turner, Gavin Mullin, Sean Cribbin, Conor Phillips, Steven Kilgallen, Ed Kelly.

Subs: Mark Roche, Ben Moxham, Shane Jennings, Niall Comerford, Sean Kearns.

IRELAND 50 JAMAICA 0, BC Place, Vancouver
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Mark Roche 2, Bryan Mollen, Sean Kearns, Conor Phillips 2, Gavin Mullin, Shane Jennings; Cons: Sean Kearns 4, Sean Cribbin
HT: Ireland 33 Jamaica 0

Team: Mark Roche, Bryan Mollen (capt), Ben Moxham, Shane Jennings, Niall Comerford, Ed Kelly, Sean Kearns.

Subs: Sean Cribbin, Liam Turner, Gavin Mullin, Conor Phillips, Steven Kilgallen.

GREAT BRITAIN 7 IRELAND 7, BC Place, Vancouver
Scorers: Great Britain: Try: Tom Bowen; Con: Luke Treharne
Ireland: Try: Gavin Mullin; Con: Sean Cribbin
HT: Great Britain 0 Ireland 0

Team: Bryan Mollen (capt), Liam Turner, Gavin Mullin, Sean Cribbin, Conor Phillips, Steven Kilgallen, Niall Comerford.

Subs: Mark Roche, Ben Moxham, Shane Jennings, Ed Kelly, Sean Kearns.

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Sunday, September 19 –


IRELAND 12 HONG KONG 7 (AET), BC Place, Vancouver
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Shane Jennings, Ben Moxham; Con: Sean Cribbin
Hong Kong: Try: Max Denmark; Con: Russell Webb
HT: Ireland 7 Hong Kong 7

Team: Liam Turner, Conor Phillips, Bryan Mollen (capt), Shane Jennings, Steven Kilgallen, Sean Cribbin, Gavin Mullin.

Subs: Ben Moxham, Niall Comerford, Sean Kearns, Chris Cosgrave.


IRELAND 5 KENYA 38, BC Place, Vancouver
Scorers: Ireland: Try: Conor Phillips
Kenya: Tries: Willy Ambaka, Daniel Taabu, Alvin Otieno 2, Levy Amunga, Mark Kwemoi; Cons: Daniel Taabu 4
HT: Ireland 0 Kenya 19

Team: Ben Moxham, Liam Turner, Conor Phillips, Bryan Mollen (capt), Niall Comerford, Sean Cribbin, Sean Kearns.

Subs: Shane Jennings, Steven Kilgallen, Gavin Mullin, Chris Cosgrave.


IRELAND 14 GREAT BRITAIN 24, BC Place, Vancouver
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Liam Turner, Sean Kearns; Cons: Sean Cribbin 2
Great Britain: Tries: Frederick Roddick, Calum Randle 2, Paddy Kelly; Cons: Frederick Roddick 2
HT: Ireland 7 Great Britain 17

Team: Liam Turner, Conor Phillips, Bryan Mollen (capt), Shane Jennings, Steven Kilgallen, Niall Comerford, Sean Cribbin.

Subs: Ben Moxham, Sean Kearns, Chris Cosgrave.