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South Africa Scupper Ireland Men’s Cup Hopes In Sydney

South Africa Scupper Ireland Men’s Cup Hopes In Sydney

Andrew Smith makes a break 28/1/2023

22-year-old forward Andrew Smith runs in a try during Ireland's pool victory over the USA in Sydney ©INPHO/Lachlan Lawson

A promising day two for the Ireland Men (sponsored by TritonLake) at the HSBC Sydney Sevens ended in a frustrating 26-12 Cup quarter-final defeat to South Africa.

Leinster’s Andrew Smith touched down in each of Ireland’s three games, as well-executed wins over Spain and the USA – both on a scoreline of 26-0 – saw them progress to the quarter-final stage as Pool C runners-up.

A brilliant brace from Terry Kennedy helped them overcome the second-ranked US team, but South Africa’s fast start, combined with a skilful clinching try from Jaiden Baron, leaves James Topping’s charges aiming for fifth place at best.

They will return to Allianz Stadium, where the large groups of Irish fans have been in full voice, for tomorrow’s 5th place semi-final against Great Britain (kick-off 2.28pm local time/3.28am Irish time).

Jack Kelly, Smith, Billy Dardis, 23-year-old World Series debutant Will Goddard and Ed Kelly all came into the starting line-up for Ireland’s early morning encounter with Spain.

The physicality was high right from the off, these European rivals giving very little away in defence until Smith displayed his footballing skills, dribbling through to score from his own kick through.

After Dardis landed a pinpoint conversion from out wide, Smith halted a promising Spanish attack with a turnover penalty and Ireland ended the first half with a second seven-pointer.

Ed Kelly did well to retrieve a bouncing kick from Goddard, and when play was moved back towards the right, the older of the Kelly brothers, Jack, batted off two attempted tackles to score from the edge of Spain’s 22.

The gap was out to 21 points when Jordan Conroy, just on from the bench, dotted down from a neat Kennedy set-up in the 12th minute. Jack Kelly had been held up in the previous phase.

Kennedy did just enough to deny Eduardo Lopez when Spain threatened to reply, but captain Harry McNulty wrapped up the scoring in the 17th minute, galloping clear from halfway courtesy of a well-timed Conroy pass.

Mark Roche’s conversion made it a nice, round 26 points without reply, and Ireland matched that feat when coming up against the USA, who were smarting from a 26-7 loss to Samoa.

The runners-up spot behind Samoa was up for grabs when Ireland renewed rivalries with the USA. Their well-organised defence was a key factor in deciding the outcome.

When they began to build phases in attack, Kennedy’s turn of pace took him in between Joe Schroeder and Kevon Williams for a fourth-minute opener. Credit to Aaron O’Sullivan for his pass off the deck to set up the opportunity.

Try number two quickly followed, the increasingly-influential Smith the scorer as he forced a turnover penalty, jinked through from his quick tap and left Marcus Tupuola in his wake.

A second well-struck conversion from Dardis gave Ireland a 14-point buffer at the break. They kept the pressure on defensively, drawing two knock-ons out of the Eagles on the resumption.

Kennedy struck a killer blow in the 12th minute, running hard to the left of a scrum and arrowing in between Malacchi Esdale and Faitala Talapusi, the latter getting a grasp of the Dubliner’s jersey but it was not enough to prevent him from scoring.

Roche sealed the result with a final converted try right in front of the vocal Irish support, his sidestep off his left and strong run to the line opening up a defence that had been on the retreat due to a Jack Kelly turnover.

A poor start left Ireland playing catch-up in the Cup quarter-final, as South Africa’s Christie Grobbelaar cut in past Ed Kelly to score after just 25 seconds. Ricardo Duarttee, who had plucked down the kick-off, converted.

Despite a lineout steal from O’Sullivan, errors forced Topping’s men back on the defensive. Grobbelaar made it 12-0 in fourth minute, Impi Visser getting past McNulty to put the 22-year-old over.

Smith and McNulty then spearheaded a break from deep, Ireland finally punching holes in attack with Ed Kelly providing the pace. Kennedy was sought out on the left wing and his overhead pass back inside saw O’Sullivan go over untouched.

The extras were supplied by Dardis, but the Blitzboks squeezed in a classy late try to lead 19-7 at the interval. Shaun Williams’ cross-field kick was inch perfect for Shilton van Wyk to score in the right corner, just ahead of Kennedy.

Breaks from McNulty and Liam McNamara had Ireland hunting down an early second half try. It fell to Smith to crash over past Duarttee in the right corner following good work from Kennedy, in particular.

The difficult conversion was missed by Dardis, leaving the scoreboard showing 19-12. Nonetheless, up stepped South African replacement Baron to deftly keep his own his kick in play, stinging Ireland with the concession of seven more points.

Ireland had opportunities to respond during the dying seconds, but Conroy was hauled down short – Kennedy was promptly penalised for going in off his feet – and Niall Comerford’s energetic running off the bench was not enough to force a score.

You can watch all the World Series action live on the World Rugby Sevens website, while there will be updates across Irish Rugby social channels and reports here on IrishRugby.ie.

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Squad (HSBC Sydney Sevens, Allianz Stadium, Sydney, Australia, January 27-29, 2023):

Niall Comerford (UCD RFC/Leinster)
Jordan Conroy (Buccaneers RFC)
Billy Dardis (Terenure College RFC)
William Goddard (IQ Rugby)
Ed Kelly (Dublin University FC)
Jack Kelly (Dublin University FC)
Terry Kennedy (St. Mary’s College RFC)
Liam McNamara (IQ Rugby)
Harry McNulty (UCD RFC) (capt)
Bryan Mollen (UCD RFC)
Chay Mullins (Galway Corinthians RFC/Connacht/IQ Rugby)
Aaron O’Sullivan (UCD RFC)
Mark Roche (Lansdowne FC)
Andrew Smith (Clontarf FC/Leinster)

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Schedule – HSBC Sydney Sevens:

Friday, January 27 –


IRELAND 12 SAMOA 17, Allianz Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Jordan Conroy 2; Con: Mark Roche
Samoa: Tries: Paul Scanlan, Neueli Leitufia, Motu Opetai; Con: Neueli Leitufia
HT: Ireland 12 Samoa 5

Team: Harry McNulty (capt), Aaron O’Sullivan, Niall Comerford, Mark Roche, Terry Kennedy, Bryan Mollen, Jordan Conroy.

Subs used: Jack Kelly, Andrew Smith, Liam McNamara. Not used: Billy Dardis, Ed Kelly.

Day 1 Round-Up: Ireland Men Fall Short Against Samoa Despite Conroy Brace

Saturday, January 28 –


IRELAND 26 SPAIN 0, Allianz Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Andrew Smith, Jack Kelly, Jordan Conroy, Harry McNulty; Cons: Billy Dardis 2, Mark Roche
Spain: –
HT: Ireland 14 Spain 0

Team: Harry McNulty (capt), Jack Kelly, Andrew Smith, Billy Dardis, Terry Kennedy, Will Goddard, Ed Kelly.

Subs used: Niall Comerford, Mark Roche, Jordan Conroy, Aaron O’Sullivan, Liam McNamara.

USA 0 IRELAND 26, Allianz Stadium
Scorers: USA: –
Ireland: Tries: Terry Kennedy 2, Andrew Smith, Mark Roche; Cons: Billy Dardis 2, Mark Roche
HT: USA 0 Ireland 14

Team: Harry McNulty (capt), Aaron O’Sullivan, Andrew Smith, Billy Dardis, Terry Kennedy, Bryan Mollen, Ed Kelly.

Subs used: Niall Comerford, Liam McNamara, Mark Roche, Jordan Conroy, Jack Kelly.


SOUTH AFRICA 26 IRELAND 12, Allianz Stadium
Scorers: South Africa: Tries: Christie Grobbelaar 2, Shilton van Wyk, Jaiden Baron; Cons: Ricardo Duarttee 3
Ireland: Tries: Aaron O’Sullivan, Andrew Smith; Con: Billy Dardis
HT: South Africa 19 Ireland 7

Team: Harry McNulty (capt), Aaron O’Sullivan, Andrew Smith, Billy Dardis, Liam McNamara, Terry Kennedy, Ed Kelly.

Subs used: Jordan Conroy, Mark Roche, Bryan Mollen, Niall Comerford, Jack Kelly.

Sunday, January 29 –


IRELAND v GREAT BRITAIN, Allianz Stadium, 2.28pm local time/3.28am Irish time