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Ireland Men Bounce Back With Trio Of Play-Off Wins

Ireland Men Bounce Back With Trio Of Play-Off Wins

Ireland Men Bounce Back With Trio Of Play-Off Wins

Captain Harry McNulty breaks clear to score for Ireland during their play-off match against Uruguay at the Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens ©INPHO/Martin Seras Lima

The Ireland Men (sponsored by TritonLake) put together three play-off wins on the final day of the Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens to finish in ninth place.

It was the best outcome that James Topping’s men could hope for after a heavyweight Pool D saw New Zealand and South Africa finish ahead of them in the battle for Cup quarter-final berths.

Andrew Smith starred with a brace of tries in both games as Ireland overcame Canada (17-0) and Uruguay (31-7), before Jordan Conroy touched down twice – taking his day three haul to four tries – in a hard-fought 19-17 9th place final victory over Samoa.

The Connacht-bound Smith led Ireland’s try-scoring with five touchdowns, one ahead of Conroy who now has 31 tries for the season, putting him just two behind the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series’ leading try scorer, Samoa’s Vaa Apelu Maliko.

Smith, who started five games and made 33 carries, also led the DHL Impact Player rankings at the end of the three-day event. He tallied up 70 points with Conroy in second on 63.


The eight World Series points picked up this weekend mean eighth-placed Ireland (91 points) have gained some ground on Samoa (96) and Australia (99) above them, in the overall standings.

Most importantly, in the race for Olympic qualification, fifth-placed South Africa are the team to catch on 101 points. They occupy the last qualifying place currently, as France, in fourth, are guaranteed their spot as hosts of the 2024 Games.

With every point counting, it is still all to play for as the Men’s Series moves on to Singapore next week, before the traditional final two legs of the campaign in Europe – Toulouse on May 12-14 and London on May 20-21.

Ireland scored from their first attacking opportunity against Canada, moving a scrum ball wide for Conroy to take on Josiah Morra and slide over in the right corner.

That unconverted try separated the teams at half-time, with some scrappy phases on the wet surface ending in handling errors. Matthew McDonald also denied Brennig Prevost with a textbook try-saving tackle.

Good work in tight spaces from Harry McNulty, McDonald and Liam McNamara chipped away at the Canadian defence before Smith, who had been sprung from the bench, shrugged off two tackles to make it 12-0.

Into the closing stages, Canada’s Will Percillier saw yellow for a deliberate knock-on, and a third Irish try wrapped up the result, a long skip pass from Sean Cribbin playing in Smith for his second of the game.

Moving on to the 9th place semi-final, Ireland were playing catch-up early on against an ever-improving Uruguay outfit. Mateo Vinals intercepted a Mark Roche pass to quickly establish a 7-0 lead.

The in-form Smith picked up another double to edge Topping’s charges ahead, firstly slipping out of a tackle from Bautista Basso just inside halfway and scooting clear of the cover to score out wide on the left.

Smith followed up with an even better try in the sixth minute, using some sharp sidestepping, a dummy and a burst of acceleration to get away from four Uruguayans for a memorable 70-metre run-in. Out-half Sean Cribbin converted.

Purple patches for both sides failed to produce more tries just before the interval, but armed with a 12-7 advantage, Ireland took their attack up a few notches during the final seven minutes.

Conroy came into midfield for a scrum on halfway, stepping in as first receiver and breaking a tackle before surging clear for Roche to convert, opening up a 12-point gap.

The ball squirted out of a Uruguayan ruck, straight from the restart, allowing Jack Kelly to steal it, sweep past an attempted tackle and go over to the right of the posts.

A well-worked move off a tapped penalty produced Ireland’s fifth and final try. Hugo Lennox’s flat pass put McNulty hurtling through a gap, and the captain’s diving finish was topped off by Lennox’s extras.

A strong start against Samoa saw Smith make an incision before Kelly burst onto a neat Mark Roche offload. He got his knees pumping to evade one tackle and beat the chasing Neueli Leitufia for a terrifically-worked seven-pointer.

Co-captain Apelu Maliko brought Samoa level in the fourth minute, fending off Conroy out wide on the left after some elusive running by Paul Scanlan on the opposite wing.

Nonetheless, Ireland snapped back to lead 12-7 with a hard-earned try past the half-time hooter. Smith and Mark Roche had a few bites at the cherry before Conroy went over in the left corner from a close-in ruck.

The Tullamore man showed his finishing skills from much further out in the ninth minute, a powerful Smith tackle forcing a turnover and Cribbin fed Conroy who weaved infield before jinking away from Tuna Tuitama to score out wide.

Mark Roche drilled the difficult conversion between the posts, which proved to be a vital kick in the end. A turnover penalty from McNulty kept Ireland – now leading 19-7 – playing in the right areas of the pitch.

They were in for an uncomfortable finish, though, as Apelu Maliko scored from his own chip kick. Scanlan also brilliantly knifed his way over from a quickly-taken penalty, but Ireland hung on as both conversions were missed.

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.

Day 2 Round-Up: Second Defeat Leaves Ireland Men Out Of Cup Contention In Hong Kong

Sunday, April 2 –


IRELAND 17 CANADA 0, Hong Kong Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Jordan Conroy, Andrew Smith 2; Con: Mark Roche
Canada: –
HT: Ireland 5 Canada 0

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

Subs used: Andrew Smith, Chay Mullins, Sean Cribbin, Fergus Jemphrey, Dylan O’Grady.


URUGUAY 7 IRELAND 31, Hong Kong Stadium
Scorers: Uruguay: Try: Mateo Vinals; Con: Guillermo Lijtenstein
Ireland: Tries: Andrew Smith 2, Jordan Conroy, Jack Kelly, Harry McNulty; Cons: Sean Cribbin, Mark Roche, Hugo Lennox
HT: Uruguay 7 Ireland 12

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

Subs used: Tom Roche, Dylan O’Grady, Chay Mullins, Hugo Lennox, Liam McNamara.


SAMOA 17 IRELAND 19, Hong Kong Stadium
Scorers: Samoa: Tries: Vaa Apelu Maliko 2, Paul Scanlan; Con: Neueli Leitufia
Ireland: Tries: Jack Kelly, Jordan Conroy 2; Cons: Mark Roche 2
HT: Samoa 7 Ireland 12

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

Subs used: Liam McNamara, Fergus Jemphrey, Chay Mullins, Tom Roche, Hugo Lennox.