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Mullin Brace Sends Ireland Men Through As Pool Winners In Cape Town

Mullin Brace Sends Ireland Men Through As Pool Winners In Cape Town

Mullin Brace Sends Ireland Men Through As Pool Winners In Cape Town

Gavin Mullin was Ireland's two-try hero as they edged out tournament hosts South Africa in the final game of the opening day of the Cape Town 7s ©INPHO/Chris Cotze

Gavin Mullin’s first half double drove the Ireland Men (sponsored by TritonLake) to a stirring 14-12 win over tournament hosts South Africa at the second leg of the HSBC SVNS Series in Cape Town.

Switching up the team line-up for the Pool A decider, James Topping’s changes worked a treat as Ireland built a 14-5 lead before some key men came off the bench to help see out the result.

Having earlier beaten both the USA (31-0) and Great Britain (19-14), it is the first time Topping’s side have gone unbeaten and finished top of a World Series pool since the Vancouver tournament last March.

Tomorrow’s Cup quarter-finals will see Ireland play New Zealand, the second best third place finishers, at 10.56am local time/8.56am Irish time (live on www.rugbypass.tv). New Zealand won bronze in Dubai last week, but lost to both Canada (19-7) and Samoa (21-14) in their pool today.

Mullin finished as Ireland’s top try scorer with three on the opening day, while Zac Ward and captain Harry McNulty bagged braces against the USA and Britain respectively. Terry Kennedy crossed in both of those two games to take his season’s haul to eight.

McNulty and his team-mates had to absorb plenty of early pressure from the US, an eventual knock-on allowing them to build from a scrum close to their own posts.

With Kennedy electing to kick downfield, the jet-heeled Conroy led the chase. Armed with a penalty advantage as play swept across towards the left wing, Ward stepped inside Ben Pinkleman to score from just outside the opposition 22.

Mark Roche converted and as the contest at the breakdown intensified, Ireland scored again just past the half-time hooter. Kennedy went quickly from a penalty won by Niall Comerford, feeding Conroy to round in behind the posts and make it 14-0.

Following an ultra efficient first half off limited possession, Topping’s men disrupted the Americans at the breakdown just seconds after the restart. A quickly-taken penalty ended with Kennedy evading two defenders to tag on five more points.

When the ball squirted out of a US ruck in the 10th minute, Ward reacted quickest to complete his brace from 30 metres out. Billy Dardis converted Mullin’s closing try for a 31-0 final scoreline, with Dardis and Kennedy both unlocking the defence with some excellent handling.

That gave Ireland their highest score and biggest winning margin against the US on the World Series circuit (their previous best was 26-0 from Sydney last year), and plenty of momentum as they moved from pitch 2 into the main DHL Stadium.

Renewing rivalries with Great Britain in the second round, a Ward turnover prevented a possible early concession before Conroy accelerated towards the left corner but was tackled into touch by the covering Tom Williams.

The deadlock was broken in the fifth minute when Dardis went quickly from a penalty inside the GB 22, linking with McNulty who twisted and muscled his way over despite the presence of Jamie Barden and Alex Davis. Dardis added the extras.

Ballynahinch clubman Ward won the battle at the breakdown to keep Ireland on the front foot. Conroy stepped inside to get within five metres of the line, and McNulty managed to double his tally with a show-and-go before fending off Davis to crash over.

12-0 became 19-0 following a strong start to the second half from the men in green. McNulty soared to pluck down the restart kick, and the Irish defence squeezed Britain into a subsequent error, replacement Jack Kelly knocking the ball free for Sean Cribbin to send Kennedy cruising home.

Britain’s bench brought the desired impact, as replacements Api Bavadra and Tom Emery squeezed in late tries. Emery scrambled over from a close-in ruck just past the final hooter, picking up a losing bonus point for his team.

Speaking in the aftermath, McNulty said: “In the captaincy role at the moment, trying to lead by my words sometimes. But I also have to think back to myself about who I am as a player and what I’m able to do on the field.

“That’s just as powerful as speaking to the boys, so look, I’ll take two tries – I don’t score that often! And if that’s what it takes for me to lead the team, or it takes me to make tackles or do set-piece stuff, then I’m happy to do those things.”

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Squad (HSBC SVNS Series – Cape Town 7s, DHL Stadium, Cape Town, Saturday, December 9-Sunday, December 10, 2023):

Niall Comerford (UCD RFC)
Jordan Conroy (Buccaneers RFC)
Sean Cribbin (Suttonians RFC)
Billy Dardis (Terenure College RFC)
Shane Jennings (Buccaneers RFC/Connacht)
Jack Kelly (Dublin University FC)
Terry Kennedy (St. Mary’s College RFC)
Hugo Lennox (Skerries RFC)
Harry McNulty (UCD RFC) (capt)
Gavin Mullin (UCD RFC)
Chay Mullins (Galway Corinthians RFC/Connacht/IQ Rugby)
Mark Roche (Lansdowne FC)
Zac Ward (Ballynahinch RFC)

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Schedule – HSBC SVNS Series – Cape Town:

Saturday, December 9 –


IRELAND 31 USA 0, DHL Stadium pitch 2
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Zac Ward 2, Jordan Conroy, Terry Kennedy, Gavin Mullin; Cons: Mark Roche 2, Billy Dardis
USA: –
HT: Ireland 14 USA 0

Team: Zac Ward, Niall Comerford, Harry McNulty (capt), Mark Roche, Sean Cribbin, Terry Kennedy, Jordan Conroy.

Replacements used: Billy Dardis, Jack Kelly, Gavin Mullin, Shane Jennings, Chay Mullins.

Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Harry McNulty 2, Terry Kennedy; Cons: Billy Dardis 2
Great Britain: Tries: Api Bavadra, Tom Emery; Cons: Tom Emery 2
HT: Ireland 12 Great Britain 0

Team: Zac Ward, Niall Comerford, Harry McNulty (capt), Billy Dardis, Sean Cribbin, Terry Kennedy, Jordan Conroy.

Replacements used: Gavin Mullin, Shane Jennings, Chay Mullins, Jack Kelly. Not used: Hugo Lennox.

Scorers: South Africa: Tries: Rosko Specman, Dewald Human; Con: Dewald Human
Ireland: Tries: Gavin Mullin 2; Cons: Hugo Lennox 2
HT: South Africa 5 Ireland 14

Team: Zac Ward, Jack Kelly, Harry McNulty (capt), Hugo Lennox, Sean Cribbin, Gavin Mullin, Chay Mullins.

Replacements used: Niall Comerford, Mark Roche, Terry Kennedy, Shane Jennings, Jordan Conroy.

Sunday, December 10 –


IRELAND v NEW ZEALAND, DHL Stadium, 10.56am local time/8.56am Irish time