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Roche And Mollen Savour ‘Special’ Result As Ireland Are Semi-Final Bound

Roche And Mollen Savour ‘Special’ Result As Ireland Are Semi-Final Bound

Roche And Mollen Savour ‘Special’ Result As Ireland Are Semi-Final Bound

Mark Roche celebrates with Ireland captain Billy Dardis following their memorable quarter-final win over South Africa ©INPHO/Travis Prior

The Ireland Men (sponsored by TritonLake) were engulfed by pockets of the travelling support at Cape Town Stadium after a sensational 24-14 quarter-final victory over South Africa.

Before they became a core team in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, they lost 45-7 to the Blitzboks at the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco, but tonight’s result is a measure of how much they have improved.

Ireland have really hit their stride in the last few months, winning silver at the Toulouse leg of the World Series, becoming Rugby Europe Trophy champions, and claiming their best ever overall World Series finish of fifth.

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Determined to kick on at the World Cup in Cape Town, James Topping’s squad, with seven World Cup debutants and half the panel aged between 20 and 24, have shown a battle-hardened quality and winning mentality across the first two days.

Coming down from the high of knocking out the host nation, Ireland’s next challenge is to beat New Zealand for the first time in their careers. They have gone desperately close in 2022, losing 22-19 late on in Singapore back in April.

Tomorrow’s semi-final (kick-off 12.35pm local time/11.35am Irish time) should be a monumental clash, the defending champions up against an Ireland side that is growing with each game and striving for global silverware.

A delighted Mark Roche, the scorer of the opening try that silenced the home fans, is hoping they can match or better their quarter-final display when they return to the pitch to face the All Blacks Sevens.

Asked what they have to do to upset New Zealand, he replied: “Same thing again, just that grit. Look, it’s always time for our first go at them. We’ve done a few teams over this World Series, first wins.

“So, we go for it there and we said it, we’re going after it, we’re not going to lose. So, hopefully it goes well tomorrow.”

Reflecting on how they progressed to the last-four, Roche admitted: “It’s my first World Cup so it’s unbelievable (to beat South Africa here in a quarter-final). I’m over the moon, I don’t have words for it.

“We said it before the game in the changing room that we were going to win, but in a confident way.

“We felt the energy all week, all from LA (the last World Series leg) as well and we were just building for it. This group has been really, really special, and we’ve got great things ahead and we’re looking forward to tomorrow.”

Bryan Mollen was there in San Francisco four years ago, but his World Cup experience was tainted by an injury picked up during the first game against Chile.

He watched his team-mates lift the Challenge Trophy for a ninth place finish in 2018, and now they are right in the hunt for the big prize, the Melrose Cup. The 26-year-old is clearly loving every minute of their Cape Town run.

“Beating South Africa on their own turf is special. It’s something we set ourselves as a goal, and to push on from this as well,” he admitted, as the players quickly turn their attention to that all-important semi-final.

“This Blitzboks team is a very special team and you can’t just play for seven (minutes). They’ll keep coming at you so we knew we had to play for 14. Once we did we thought we’d come out on the right side of it.

“It’s pride in the jersey, and playing for the guy either side of you. You have to dig deep for each other and we’re a really close group on and off the pitch.”

New Zealand booked their semi-final spot by edging out Argentina 12-5 in a bruising battle. On the other side of the draw, Australia ended France’s hopes with a 14-5 defeat and two-time Olympic champions Fiji got the better of Samoa, winning 21-10.

The Championship final is scheduled for 8.54pm local time/7.54pm Irish time tomorrow night, and will be preceded by the Bronze medal decider at 7.25pm local time/6.25pm Irish time.

All of Ireland’s games are live on the RTÉ Player in the Republic of Ireland, while there will be coverage across Irish Rugby social media channels and on IrishRugby.ie. A full list of broadcasters is available here.

The Ireland Men’s and Women’s Sevens teams are wearing their brand new Canterbury kit for the World Cup in Cape Town. Click here to buy the new jerseys online from Intersport Elverys.