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Second Defeat Leaves Ireland Men Out Of Cup Contention In Hong Kong

Second Defeat Leaves Ireland Men Out Of Cup Contention In Hong Kong

Second Defeat Leaves Ireland Men Out Of Cup Contention In Hong Kong

Mark Roche weighed in with two tries during the Ireland Men's opening win of the tournament in Hong Kong ©INPHO/Martin Seras Lima

The Ireland Men (sponsored by TritonLake) fell short in the scramble for Cup quarter-final places at the Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens earlier today.

A well-judged 26-14 win over Kenya raised their hopes, with Mark Roche running in two of their four tries, but top seeds New Zealand slammed the door shut by handing James Topping’s side a 26-7 defeat.

Ireland needed a seven-point victory over the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series leaders in order to reach the last-eight. Despite an encouraging try from Chay Mullins, the All Blacks Sevens broke clear in the second half.

The result means ninth place is the highest Ireland can aim for, beginning with tomorrow’s quarter-final against Canada (kick-off 8.30am local time/1.30am Irish time).

In terms of the race for Olympic qualification, Ireland are currently eighth on 83 points. However, the USA, in ninth, and South Africa (7th) and Fiji (4th) have all made it through to the Cup quarter-final stage in Hong Kong.

Topping’s men had made a dream start to the second day, captain Harry McNulty hoovering up the breaking ball from the Kenyan kick-off to charge in under the posts after just 15 seconds.

Following Mark Roche’s conversion for a 7-0 lead, Andrew Smith impressed by gobbling up another restart and leading a counter-ruck, a few minutes later, to win turnover ball.

Jordan Conroy got his hands free in a tackle to release Matthew McDonald, but Daniel Taabu chased him down to avoid the concession of a second try.

Alvin Otieno lifted Kenya with a bustling break from deep, fending off Mullins to bring his side level in the fourth minute. Ireland went the direct route to snatch back the lead before half-time.

Conroy, Sean Cribbin and McNulty led some sharp build-up play, with replacement Jack Kelly being held up just short before Smith, with the support of Kelly, crashed over. Roche’s extras left it 14-7.

A smart attack off a scrum saw Smith’s inside pass release scrum half Roche to nip over beside the posts. Cribbin had folded out to the left on a decoy run, helping to prize open the defence. With Roche’s conversion, it was a 14-point lead.

Kenya pulled back seven points with a superb set of offloads between Billy Odhiambo, Kevin Wekesa and replacement Johnstone Olindi, midway through the second half. Odhiambo was the finisher and Olindi converted.

Conroy was denied a try by a Nelson Oyoo tackle, but Roche settled the issue past the final hooter. He tapped a penalty, stepped inside two attempted tackles and took John Okoth with him over the try-line.

With South Africa beating Kenya 26-17 in the final round, Ireland knew the winning margin they required against New Zealand in the closing Pool D game and the early signs were promising.

McNulty and his team-mates were able to control the tempo and territory off a series of penalties, but neither try-line was threatened until a powerful break by Sione Molia whose offloaded bounced up for the inrushing Brady Rush to open the scoring.

A long kick downfield from Mark Roche forced New Zealand back into their own 22, the scrum half ultra committed in the chase before a big counter-ruck from McNulty and Smith quickly regained possession.

A short pass from Smith soon opened up some space for Tom Roche who scooped a nice delivery out wide for Mullins to collect and run in behind the posts. The elder Roche converted, moving Ireland level.

Crucially, New Zealand squeezed in a second converted try before the interval. Amanaki Nicole and Akuila Rokolisoa gave Ngarohi McGarvey-Black a 40-metre run-in, with the match officials appearing to miss a forward pass.

It was a double blow for Ireland as Tom Roche was sin-binned for knocking on in a tackle during the build-up. They coped well while down to six men, keeping the scoreline at 14-7.

Some tight refereeing calls were going against Ireland, though. McNulty argued that Leroy Carter had kicked the ball forward out of an Irish ruck on his way to scoring a try, but referee AJ Jacobs thought otherwise and awarded the score.

Fehi Fineanganofo, another player introduced from the Kiwis’ bench, made it a four-tries-to-one triumph in the end, with the referee adjudging that Carter’s pass to him out wide was flat.

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Squad (Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, Hong Kong Stadium, Friday, March 31-Sunday, April 2, 2023):

Jordan Conroy (Buccaneers RFC)
Sean Cribbin (Suttonians RFC)
Fergus Jemphrey (Ballynahinch RFC)
Jack Kelly (Dublin University FC)
Hugo Lennox (Skerries RFC)
Matt McDonald (IQ Rugby)
Liam McNamara (IQ Rugby)
Harry McNulty (UCD RFC) (capt)
Chay Mullins (Galway Corinthians RFC/Connacht/IQ Rugby)
Dylan O’Grady (UCD RFC)
Mark Roche (Lansdowne FC)
Tom Roche (Lansdowne FC)
Andrew Smith (Clontarf FC/Leinster)

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Schedule – Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens:

Friday, March 31 –


IRELAND 7 SOUTH AFRICA 14, Hong Kong Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Try: Matthew McDonald; Con: Mark Roche
South Africa: Tries: Mfundo Ndhlovu, Zain Davids; Cons: Ricardo Duarttee 2
HT: Ireland 7 South Africa 7

Team: Harry McNulty (capt), Matthew McDonald, Jack Kelly, Mark Roche, Liam McNamara, Andrew Smith, Jordan Conroy.

Subs used: Fergus Jemphrey, Tom Roche, Sean Cribbin, Hugo Lennox. Not used: Chay Mullins.

Day 1 Round-Up: Ireland Men Beaten By Blitzboks In Hong Kong Opener

Saturday, April 1 –


IRELAND 26 KENYA 14, Hong Kong Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Harry McNulty, Andrew Smith, Mark Roche 2; Cons: Mark Roche 3
Kenya: Tries: Alvin Otieno, Billy Odhiambo; Cons: Anthony Omondi, Johnstone Olindi
HT: Ireland 14 Kenya 7

Team: Harry McNulty (capt), Matthew McDonald, Chay Mullins, Mark Roche, Sean Cribbin, Andrew Smith, Jordan Conroy.

Subs used: Jack Kelly, Fergus Jemphrey, Liam McNamara, Hugo Lennox. Not used: Dylan O’Grady.

IRELAND 7 NEW ZEALAND 26, Hong Kong Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Try: Chay Mullins; Con: Mark Roche
New Zealand: Tries: Brady Rush, Ngarohi McGarvey-Black, Leroy Carter, Fehi Fineanganofo; Cons: Akuila Rokolisoa 3
HT: Ireland 7 New Zealand 14

Team: Harry McNulty (capt), Tom Roche, Chay Mullins, Mark Roche, Liam McNamara, Andrew Smith, Dylan O’Grady.

Subs used: Matthew McDonald, Sean Cribbin, Jordan Conroy, Jack Kelly. Not used: Hugo Lennox.

Sunday, April 2 –


IRELAND v CANADA, Hong Kong Stadium, 8.30am local time/1.30am Irish time