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Ireland Men Stun Fiji On Way To Singapore Quarter-Final

Ireland Men Stun Fiji On Way To Singapore Quarter-Final

World Series debutant Matt McDonald is pictured in action during Ireland's 38-7 pool victory over Japan in Singapore ©INPHO/Martin Seras Lima

The Ireland Men’s Sevens team, sponsored by TritonLake, earned their first ever win over Fiji as they qualified for the Cup quarter-finals at the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series leg in Singapore.

Building on their fourth place finish in Seville back in January, James Topping’s side claimed the scalp of the double Olympic champions. A lung-busting try from Terry Kennedy sealed a famous 21-12 victory.

Jordan Conroy, fresh from his Dancing with the Stars exploits, led the try-scoring with four, including a first half brace against Fiji, and the returning Harry McNulty also had a key impact up front.

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Ireland followed up with a 38-7 triumph over Japan, Chay Mullins touching down twice as he enjoyed a memorable World Series debut just three weeks on from playing his part in Ireland Under-20s’ Grand Slam win.

Tamilore Awonusi, another of the newer players in Topping’s squad, also bagged a brace against the Japanese, and keeping the points difference in their favour, a 12-7 defeat to France was enough to see Ireland through as Pool D runners-up.

The only European team to reach the last-eight, Ireland will return to the National Stadium tomorrow for a mouth-watering quarter-final clash with the USA at 1.34pm local time/6.34am Irish time.

Speaking after Ireland’s quarter-final qualification, McNulty said: “It’s been a long time for me to be back on the series. It’s been a lot of firsts, there’s been some debutants, our first time in Singapore, first time beating Fiji.

“Getting through to the quarters, I’m delighted for the boys. A couple of tough games obviously. Every game on the series is so tough obviously, but it’s fantastic. Fantastic to be back in the green jersey.

“We knew the points difference that would get us through, it’s the last thing we went through on the board before we came out. We knew anything less than the 12 or 13 points (against France).

“We didn’t win it, but if that’s what it takes to get through to the quarter-finals, then you just have to accept that sometimes.”

Like Mullins, fellow IQ Rugby representative Matt McDonald also made his World Series bow, the 24-year-old starting against Japan and also coming off the bench in the other two pool games.

It was a warm welcome back to the World Series for Fiji, who missed the last two rounds played in Spain due to the logistical challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With captain Billy Dardis also back in situ, Ireland got off to a solid start against the Fijians. Good defensive work from Andrew Smith, who earned a penalty at the breakdown, and Jack Kelly led to turnovers.

McNulty straightened up a few attacks, providing go-forward ball, and Kelly released Conroy to break past Tevita Daugunu for the opening try just under two minutes before half-time.

Dardis converted impressively from wide on the right and also added the extras to Conroy’s second score, as Dardis jinked his way up to Fiji’s 10-metre line before Hugo Lennox’s took out the defence with a clever pass, back to the short side, for the Tullamore man to make it 14-0.

Jerry Tuwai led Fiji’s response, breaking from a scrum early in the second half to send Vuiviawa Naduvalo over for a unconverted try. It was a quick-fire double, Joseva Talacolo darting clear to close the gap to two points.

In a tense conclusion to the match, forward passes and knock-ons broke up momentum for both sides. Ireland struggled for territory but replacement Gavin Mullin had a couple of energetic bursts to get back up towards halfway.

Then, inside the final minute, Kennedy suddenly turned a bouncing pass into a 70-metre break as he burst in between two defenders and turned on the afterburners to evade Pilipo Bukayaro’s diving tackle and raid in behind the posts.

Mark Roche’s straightforward conversion made it a nine-point victory, with the men in green laying down an early marker with this historic result in humid conditions.

There were four changes for the second round encounter with Japan, newcomers Mullins and McDonald both starting. Kennedy, this season’s leading try scorer, continued where he left off with a first-minute try in the left corner.

Steven Kilgallen had made the initial incision, but after Lennox’s pinpoint conversion, Japan quickly made it seven points apiece when their co-captain Kazuma Nakagawa streaked clear from inside his own half.

However, Ireland gave themselves some breathing space with a late Mullins brace. The 20-year-old used a well-timed hand-off to propel himself clear for a try that started back in the Irish 22.

Kennedy and Kilgallen got the ball away for Mullins to score again soon after, the Bristol Bears clubman stepping inside Kameli Soejima’s attempted tackle before reaching out for the line past another defender.

The left-footed Lennox expertly nailed both conversion for a 21-7 interval lead, and although the scoring dried up for much of the second half, Ireland made sure to finish with a flourish.

Mullin and Smith began to make metres with some nifty footwork, and the latter soon popped an offload off the deck for Awonusi to score from close range. He added his second having broken out of a tackle from Shun Tomonaga.

Lennox knocked over his fourth successful conversion to make it 31-7, before an error-strewn Japan coughed up more possession. Conroy took advantage to break through down the blindside of a ruck, notching Ireland’s sixth and final try.

Topping’s charges locked horns with France to decide the final placings, a switch move almost seeing Lennox get clear for a third minute try. Les Bleus held firm and earned a clearing penalty.

Smith’s counter-rucking saw Ireland hit back, but the French attack was rewarded twice before half-time. Jordan Sepho was able to score from halfway, and the industrious Jonathan Laugel went the direct route to make it 12-0.

French indiscipline invited Ireland forward on the restart, Mullin showing impressive hands and he was involved in setting up Conroy to shrug off Joachim Trouabal to score in the right corner in the 10th minute.

Ireland cleverly wound down the clock, keeping play in the French half and even when les Bleus had a chance to break out, McDonald’s well-won turnover penalty effectively sealed second place for his side.

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Squad (HSBC Singapore Sevens, National Stadium, Singapore, April 2022):

Tamilore Awonusi (IQ Rugby)
Jordan Conroy (Buccaneers RFC)
Billy Dardis (Terenure College RFC) (capt)
Jack Kelly (Dublin University FC)
Terry Kennedy (St. Mary’s College RFC)
Steven Kilgallen (UCD RFC)
Hugo Lennox (Skerries RFC)
Matt McDonald (IQ Rugby)
Harry McNulty (UCD RFC)
Gavin Mullin (UCD RFC)
Chay Mullins (IQ Rugby)
Mark Roche (Lansdowne FC)
Andrew Smith (Clontarf FC/Leinster)

HSBC WORLD RUGBY SEVENS SERIES – SINGAPORE SEVENS FIXTURES/RESULTS:

Saturday, April 9 –

POOL D:

IRELAND 21 FIJI 12, National Stadium, Singapore
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Jordan Conroy 2, Terry Kennedy; Cons: Billy Dardis 2, Mark Roche
Fiji: Tries: Vuiviawa Naduvalo, Joseva Talacolo; Con: Waisea Nacuqu
HT: Ireland 14 Fiji 0

Team: Harry McNulty, Jack Kelly, Andrew Smith, Billy Dardis (capt), Jordan Conroy, Terry Kennedy, Hugo Lennox.

Subs used: Gavin Mullin, Mark Roche, Tamilore Awonusi, Matt McDonald. Not used: Chay Mullins.

IRELAND 38 JAPAN 7, National Stadium, Singapore
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Terry Kennedy, Chay Mullins 2, Tamilore Awonusi 2, Jordan Conroy; Cons: Hugo Lennox 4
Japan: Try: Kazuma Nakagawa; Con: Taiga Ishida
HT: Ireland 21 Japan 7

Team: Jack Kelly (capt), Tamilore Awonusi, Matt McDonald, Terry Kennedy, Hugo Lennox, Steven Kilgallen, Chay Mullins.

Subs used: Mark Roche, Andrew Smith, Jordan Conroy, Harry McNulty, Gavin Mullin.

IRELAND 5 FRANCE 12, National Stadium, Singapore
Scorers: Ireland: Try: Jordan Conroy
France: Tries: Jordan Sepho, Jonathan Laugel; Con: Paulin Riva
HT: Ireland 0 France 12

Team: Harry McNulty, Jack Kelly, Andrew Smith, Jordan Conroy, Terry Kennedy (capt), Mark Roche, Hugo Lennox.

Subs used: Billy Dardis, Gavin Mullin, Tamilore Awonusi, Matt McDonald. Not used: Chay Mullins.

HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series – Singapore Sevens Fixtures/Results

HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series – Singapore Sevens Pool Tables

Sunday, April 10 –

CUP QUARTER-FINAL:

USA v IRELAND, National Stadium, Singapore, 1.34pm local time/6.34am Irish time