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Kennedy Returns As Ireland Men Build Momentum In European Opener

Kennedy Returns As Ireland Men Build Momentum In European Opener

Kennedy Returns As Ireland Men Build Momentum In European Opener

Terry Kennedy is back playing for the Ireland Men's Sevens team for the first time since January's Sydney leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series ©INPHO/Lachlan Lawson

Terry Kennedy was back in action with the Ireland Men’s Sevens team (sponsored by TritonLake) as they kicked off the opening leg of the Rugby Europe Sevens Championship Series with a brace of wins.

James Topping’s side got the better of Belgium (31-7) and an inexperienced France outfit (34-7) to leave themselves in pole position in Pool C, heading into tomorrow’s second day of the Algarve Sevens.

This weekend’s event is part of Ireland’s build-up to the Olympic qualifying tournament at the European Games in Krakow, Poland at the end of the month, so Kennedy’s return is a timely boost for the squad.

Zac Ward, Dylan O’Grady, Jordan Conroy and Andrew Smith scored two tries each in the Portuguese sunshine, with today’s results seeing Ireland lead the charge for the Cup quarter-finals ahead of tomorrow’s pool finale against Great Britain (kick-off 11.52am local time/Irish time).

Kennedy was prominent early on during the Belgium game, following up on an incisive run by Jack Kelly before Ward evaded a tackle and burst over for the opening try inside a minute.

After Billy Dardis had converted from close range, a quick tap and injection of pace from Kennedy set up UCD speedster O’Grady to cross out wide in the third minute, making it 12-0.

The Belgians then paid the price for losing Gaspard Lalli to the sin bin for slapping down a Kennedy pass. Ireland tagged on two more tries to lead 24-0 at the interval.

Niall Comerford intercepted a pass to play in Kelly for an unconverted score, and a leaping Ward collected Dardis’ restart kick to send Liam McNamara in under the posts from 25 metres out.

Ireland went down to six players early in the second half, with replacement Bryan Mollen yellow carded for a deliberate knock-on. Tornike Megrelidze was denied a try by a foot in touch.

The returning Lalli was able to break free soon after for a well-taken seven-pointer, but Conroy – featuring on a strong bench – was fed from a last-minute scrum to make it 24-point winning margin.

Next up was a France team that was much changed from the one that finished fourth in the recent HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. The Olympic hosts are looking to add further depth to their squad.

With Ireland snatching possession back through their counter rucking, Ward carved open the French defence with a superb slaloming run to score under the posts. Mark Roche converted.

The men in green maintained that early control, going 12 points up when Conroy dotted down in the right corner. Captain Harry McNulty had batted back the restart and McNamara and Smith linked well before Gavin Mullin and Ward released the Tullamore man.

Ward continued to catch the eye, using a bouncing pass to break back into the French 22. Mullin made good ground too, Conroy stepping in at scrum half before Smith fixed a defender and gave himself enough space to squeeze over in the left corner.

France’s Alexis Auradou hit back with a fine effort from inside his own half, but McNulty hoovered up the restart and a dummying Smith brilliantly broke through from Ireland’s 10-metre line to make it 22-7 at half-time.

A big carry from McNulty took him over the try-line in the 10th minute, and France’s best chance of responding was foiled by Mullin’s well-timed try-saving tackle on Esteban Jouve.

From the subsequent scrum, Ireland set up the fresh-legged Kennedy to nip in between two defenders, with his inviting pass putting fellow replacement O’Grady racing clear, up the left wing, to score from just inside the Irish 22.

The conversion from Roche was the final scoring act of a well-judged victory for Topping’s charges, who will move on to play Britain, one of their key rivals for that Olympic qualification spot later this month.

You can watch all the matches live as they happen from the Algarve Sevens here on www.rugbyeurope.tv (free registration).

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Squad (Rugby Europe Sevens Championship Series – Leg 1, Algarve Sevens, Portugal, Friday, June 9-Sunday, June 11, 2023):

Jordan Conroy (Buccaneers RFC)
Niall Comerford (UCD RFC/Leinster)
Billy Dardis (Terenure College RFC)
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)
Gavin Mullin (UCD RFC)
Dylan O’Grady (UCD RFC)
Mark Roche (Lansdowne FC)
Andrew Smith (Clontarf FC/Leinster)
Zac Ward (Ballynahinch RFC)

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Schedule – Algarve Sevens:

Friday, June 9 –


BELGIUM 7 IRELAND 31, Sports Complex Vila Real de Santo António, Algarve
Scorers: Belgium: Try: Gaspard Lalli; Con: Ryan Godsmark
Ireland: Tries: Zac Ward, Dylan O’Grady, Jack Kelly, Liam McNamara, Jordan Conroy; Cons: Billy Dardis 2, Mark Roche
HT: Belgium 0 Ireland 24

Watch Match Video

Team: Zac Ward, Niall Comerford, Jack Kelly, Billy Dardis, Liam McNamara, Terry Kennedy, Dylan O’Grady.

Subs used: Harry McNulty (capt), Mark Roche, Bryan Mollen, Jordan Conroy, Andrew Smith.

FRANCE 7 IRELAND 34, Sports Complex Vila Real de Santo António, Algarve
Scorers: France: Try: Alexis Levron; Con: Paul Auradou
Ireland: Tries: Zac Ward, Jordan Conroy, Andrew Smith 2, Harry McNulty, Dylan O’Grady; Cons: Mark Roche, Billy Dardis
HT: France 7 Ireland 22

Watch Match Video

Team: Harry McNulty (capt), Andrew Smith, Zac Ward, Mark Roche, Liam McNamara, Gavin Mullin, Jordan Conroy.

Subs used: Bryan Mollen, Billy Dardis, Niall Comerford, Terry Kennedy, Dylan O’Grady.

Saturday, June 10 –


IRELAND v GREAT BRITAIN, Sports Complex Vila Real de Santo António, Algarve, 11.52am local time/Irish time


Sunday, June 11 –