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Ireland Men End LA Sevens On Losing Note

Ireland Men End LA Sevens On Losing Note

Ireland Men End LA Sevens On Losing Note

Harry McNulty and his Ireland team-mates were unable to maintain their winning form at the HSBC Los Angeles Sevens tournament ©INPHO/Christiaan Kotze

There was disappointment for the Ireland Men’s Sevens team (sponsored by TritonLake) as they suffered back-to-back defeats on the final day of the HSBC Los Angeles Sevens.

James Topping’s charges came into the play-offs with high hopes after topping their pool on a weather-affected opening day, beating second-ranked South Africa in the process.

However, a sluggish start meant Ireland were always playing catch up in the Cup quarter-final. Jordan Conroy struck back with a sensational solo try from his own half, but Australia ran out convincing 31-7 winners.

Another well-finished try from Leinster’s Andrew Smith, who scored three across the weekend, gave the Harry McNulty-led side an early lead in their 5th place semi-final against Great Britain.

They were unable to add to it, though, as Britain claimed a 12-5 victory thanks to scores from Nathan Greenwood, who crossed to mark his HSBC World Sevens Series debut, and Morgan Williams.

That left Ireland with 10 World Series points to show for their efforts at Dignity Health Sports Park, with their fifth top-eight finish of the campaign keeping them ninth in the overall standings (68 points).

They have closed the gap on a couple of the teams above them, with the USA on 69 and Olympic hosts France on 76, ahead of next weekend’s Vancouver leg of the series.

The top four teams in the standings – Fiji are currently fourth on 84 points – will qualify automatically for the Olympics next year. Vancouver, Hong Kong, Singapore, Toulouse and London are the five remaining stops.

Australia gained crucial early momentum in the Cup quarter-final, with Conroy missing a tackle and James Turner taking two defenders with him over the try-line.

Billy Dardis was beaten to a loose ball by Maurice Longbottom, who made it 10-0 after Matt McDonald, having won a turnover, threw a stray offload as he was being tackled into touch.

Some more missed tackles allowed Henry Paterson to barge back up towards the Irish 22, and the Australians had the space out wide to send Longbottom over to complete his brace in the fifth minute.

Trailing 17-0, Ireland gained ground through Niall Comerford before Dardis’ long floated pass invited Conroy forward. The Tullamore man took off from 60 metres out, stepping inside two defenders and darting past a final one to go in under the posts.


However, the conversion from Dardis was swiftly followed by a fourth Australian try. They tapped a penalty and a lung-busting late attack ended with Paterson reaching over to leave it 24-7 at half-time.

Dietrich Roache made it over in the corner, early in the second half, as Ireland were made to pay for captain McNulty’s sin-binning for a deliberate knock-on.

The Irish bench did make an impact, with Liam McNamara doing really well to deny Darby Lancaster a try, while Smith and Mark Roche sparked improvements in attack, albeit without troubling the try-line.

Their clinical edge returned inside the opening minutes against Britain, Bryan Mollen carrying well before Smith brilliantly beat two defenders with his quick feet and a fend to score to the right of the posts.

Nonetheless, a Mollen knock-on and a forward pass from Comerford prevented Ireland from building on their early lead in what turned out to be a cagey first half.

Tenth-ranked Britain squeezed in a late try to lead 7-5 at the break, Greenwood using a Kaleem Barreto offload to burst through a gap and scorch clear from just inside his own half.

Ireland were unable to score from a long spell of possession early on the resumption, and just as McNamara struggled with an injury, Williams swept past him out wide to put seven points between the sides.

A Smith turnover penalty had the men in green hunting down a response inside the final three minutes, but the British defence was well organised. They forced a forward pass from McNulty, allowing them to see out the result.