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Ireland Young Guns Go Unbeaten On Day One In Vancouver

Ireland Young Guns Go Unbeaten On Day One In Vancouver

Suttonians' Sean Cribbin played his part as a youthful Ireland squad finished top of Pool B in Vancouver ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

A young and inexperienced Ireland squad advanced to the Cup quarter-finals after topping Pool B at the HSBC Canada Sevens tournament in Vancouver.

Anthony Eddy’s men beat Hong Kong (17-14) and Jamaica (50-0) and then edged out Great Britain for top spot on points difference, after the sides had played out a 7-7 draw.

Hong Kong will provide the quarter-final opposition later today (kick-off 9.20am local time/5.20pm Irish time), when captain Bryan Mollen and his team-mates return to BC Place’s artificial pitch.

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The HSBC World Rugby Men’s Sevens Series is back on the road again, with the 2021 season only consisting of this month’s back-to-back events in Vancouver and Edmonton.

Keen to expose more players to the World Series environment, eight players made their World Series debuts for Ireland on the opening day in Vancouver.

Ed Kelly’s eye-catching try against Hong Kong was certainly a highlight, while Munster Academy flyer Conor Phillips top-scored with three tries.

Ireland’s starting line-up for their opening early-month clash with Hong Kong had an average age of 22, with three more players aged between 20 and 21 on the bench.

One of the youngest members, Kelly, made his mark after just 51 seconds, picking up possession midway through the Irish half and fixing two defenders with sidesteps.

Suddenly, the space opened up and the 20-year-old gleefully took it, pinning his ears back for a terrific run towards the left corner and a memorable unconverted try.

Ireland went 12-0 up in the third minute, the elusive Phillips picking up from a ruck to spring clean through and go in behind the posts.

A strong run by Liam Turner, via a Gavin Mullin offload, had set up the opportunity, and Suttonians’ Sean Cribbin followed up with the conversion.

While Hong Kong are an invitational team, this is still their 30th World Series tournament appearance and they showed that experience as half-time approached.

Ireland needed a crucial turnover from Steven Kilgallen to avoid leaking a try, but Hong Kong’s persistent pressure was eventually rewarded when Liam Herbert went over.

With his side’s lead cut to five points at the break, Mollen led by example with a muscular charge on the resumption. Space then opened up on the left, with Cribbin and Mullin freeing up Turner to make it 17-7.

Nonetheless, a Herbert kick downfield soon had Ireland exposed, Niall Comerford tracking back but conceding a penalty. A few phases later, Russell Webb stepped through a gap for a second seven-pointer.

In a tense finale, Mullin stole a lineout – just as Hong Kong looked to build for a match-winning score – and the men in green retained possession for the remainder.

Handling the coaching duties this week, James Topping made five changes for the second round match with Jamaica, who are coached by Fijian Sevens icon Waisale Serevi.

One of the IRFU Sevens Programme’s ‘Originals’ from 2015, Mark Roche, started the scoring against the powerful Caribbean outfit, who failed to profit from an early Ben Moxham yellow card.

Ballinasloe native Shane Jennings followed up his own tackle with a turnover penalty, and scrum half Roche slalomed through from the edge of the 22, bouncing off a tackle on his way.

After Sean Kearns’ conversion, Mollen was a whisker away from a second try before he successfully dotted down in the very next phase, as Jamaica began to leak penalties.

With Ireland going the direct route again, Roche picked up from a ruck to double his tally. A couple of nice touches from Phillips paved the way for Kearns to cross, courtesy of a sharp change of direction.

Out-half Kearns ended the first half with 13 points, landing four of his five conversions. Phillips, the beneficiary of Kelly’s long floated pass, flew down the right touchline to make it 33-0.

Comerford set the tone for the closing seven minutes with a high work-rate in defence. Kelly did well to win a turnover penalty, deep in Jamaican territory, and Anthony Bingham’s efforts to prevent a quick tap put him in the sin bin.

Phillips’ reward to denying Fabion Turner a breakaway try was his own second score of the game, less than a minute later.

The Limerick-born winger had a hand in the penultimate try, his neat offload set up Cribbin to kick through and it was perfectly weighted for Mullin to reach it before the ball went dead.

Replacement Cribbin added a classy conversion from the left touchline, and Ireland hit the half-century mark in the final play, Jennings going over out wide from a Turner pass.

That left the two unbeaten teams to meet in the pool decider, and it was a cagey, defence-dominated first half between Ireland and Great Britain.

Kilgallen was brought down a few metres short in Ireland’s best attacking opportunity, following some sharp running by Comerford and Mullin.

Knock-ons thwarted both sides, leaving it scoreless at half-time, and the scrappy fare continued on the restart with every breakdown hotly contested.

The breakthrough finally came in the tenth minute and it was well worth the wait. Cribbin carried well initially, before Mullin stepped inside Jamie Barden, near the British 10-metre line, and scampered clear for an excellent score.

Cribbin converted and was agonisingly close to following up with a try in the right corner. Unfortunately he lost control of the ball as he lunged for the line, under pressure from Max McFarland.

Britain managed to regroup and level the game late on, replacement Tom Bowen raiding up the right for Luke Treharne to convert. The draw was still enough to send Ireland through as pool winners.

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)

HSBC WORLD RUGBY SEVENS SERIES – CANADA SEVENS VANCOUVER RESULTS/FIXTURES:

Saturday, September 18 –

POOL B:

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
Jamaica:
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.

HSBC Canada Sevens Vancouver Results/Fixtures

HSBC Canada Sevens Vancouver Pool Tables

Sunday, September 19 –

CUP QUARTER-FINAL:

IRELAND v HONG KONG, BC Place, Vancouver, 9.20am local time/5.20pm Irish time