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Ireland Men End Calendar Year With Fourth Place Finish In Cape Town

Ireland Men End Calendar Year With Fourth Place Finish In Cape Town

Ireland Men End Calendar Year With Fourth Place Finish In Cape Town

Influential forward Zac Ward is pictured on the attack during Ireland's historic HSBC SVNS Series win over New Zealand in Cape Town ©INPHO/Chris Cotze

After claiming the prized scalp of New Zealand, the Ireland Men (sponsored by TritonLake) suffered two seven-point defeats as they finished fourth at the HSBC SVNS Cape Town tournament.

Ireland overcame the All Blacks Sevens for the first time in 11 World Series meetings, as a superb first half performance saw them score 26 unanswered points with Terry Kennedy serving up a slick hat-trick.

Their 36-21 quarter-final victory extended Ireland’s winning run in the South African sunshine to four games, but eventual champions Argentina triumphed 26-19 at the semi-final stage, and a last-gasp try from captain Joseva Talacolo saw Fiji win the 3rd place play-off, 14-7.

Still, it was the first time in six World Series events that James Topping’s men have finished in the top four. They picked up 14 valuable points to remain fifth in the standings on 26 points, just two behind New Zealand in fourth.

Following the opening two legs of the revamped SVNS Series, a 15-point gap has opened up between the leading six teams and seventh-placed Samoa. The 2024 tour resumes after the Christmas break with Australian city Perth the next destination (January 26-28).

Fifth place finishers in Dubai last week, captain Harry McNulty and his team-mates certainly displayed their battling qualities in these back-to-back tournaments. The Pool A winners closed out a gruelling weekend in Cape Town by playing the world’s leading four teams in successive rounds.

Their highlights in the Mother City included those impressive wins over hosts South Africa, the Dubai champions, and New Zealand, as well as the try-scoring exploits of Kennedy (5), and Zac Ward and Gavin Mullin (4 each).

On the back of a disappointing first day by their high standards, New Zealand were looking for a fast start against Ireland in the quarter-final. However, it was Ward and Kennedy who led the way to conjure the opening try inside 30 seconds.


Ward showed his prowess at the breakdown again, forcing turnover ball which Kennedy used to outpace Moses Leo from 40 metres out and claim the first five points in the left corner.

Ireland took a 12-0 lead in the third minute, with Sean Cribbin using scrum possession to launch a kick chase, from just inside the Irish half, that created their second try.

Kennedy hared after it along with three New Zealand players, swooping on the bobbling ball to score beside the right post pad after it had initially evaded everyone. Mark Roche converted.

As the All Blacks Sevens continued to make errors and concede penalties, Ireland pressed on in pursuit of more scores. Jordan Conroy and Kennedy had them within striking distance before Ward bashed his way through two tackles to reach over in the sixth minute.

Ngarohi McGarvey-Black then saw yellow for a neck roll, and Kennedy duly completed his hat-trick in the first half’s final play. Roche teed him up off a scrum and his diagonal run out to the left took him over, with Roche adding a pinpoint conversion.

Leading 26-0 at the break, Ireland took further advantage of McGarvey-Black’s absence as they wore down the New Zealand defence before Kennedy set up Ward to step inside Leroy Carter and cross from close range.

Injuries meant both Conroy and Ward had to leave the field, and New Zealand fired back with fresh-legged replacements Tepaea Cook Savage and Cody Vai mustering a quick-fire brace of converted tries.

The game restarted with just under two minutes remaining, and McNulty got Ireland building through the phases again. Shane Jennings jinked out to the right, drew in a defender and released fellow replacement Hugo Lennox to go over in the corner.

McGarvey-Black dummied and sped through a gap for a last-gasp consolation score, but it failed to take the shine off a famous triumph for Topping’s side as they confidently progressed to their first Cup semi-final of the season.

“We’re delighted,” admitted Kennedy, when speaking afterwards. “It’s probably a monkey off our back now. We had a few times where we came very close against them (New Zealand), but (it’s) great to get it done like that, in emphatic style as well.

“To be fair I got a couple of lucky bounces of the ball there (to score), but our whole seven, every time we’re on the pitch, we’re dogged out there and thankfully those breaking balls broke for us that time.”

Ireland almost got off to a flying start in their semi-final clash with in-form Argentina. A surging break from Jennings was foiled by Marcos Moneta’s try-saving tackle, and a subsequent interception by Luciano Gonzalez led to Santiago Mare scoring just a few phases later.

An overlap allowed Mare to make it 12-0 midway through the first half, as los Pumas Sevens showed the high quality of play that had earned them eight Cup semi-final wins in a row, stretching back to the Seville leg in 2022.

Cribbin’s skip pass invited Conroy to have a cut from the edge of the Irish 22, and his searing stop-start run took him past the covering Gonzalez to pull back five points in the fifth minute.

Too many of Argentina’s leading players were having an influence, though, as Gonzalez soon bulldozed his way back into scoring range and after a twinkle-toed set-up from Moneta, Matias Ozadczuk had a clear path to the try-line to make it 19-5 at half-time.

A knock-on and penalty landed Ireland back close to their own line, before Santiago Alvarez arrowed through a gap for try number four. A scrum turnover lifted the men in green as they sought to eat into the 21-point deficit.

Kennedy also scrapped to win a turnover on the deck, and Lennox, heading into the final minute, found a gap to sprint clear from his own 22 for a seven-pointer. Chay Mullins added a third converted try, stepping in off the right wing with time just up.

Moving on to target only their second ever win over Fiji, Ireland held the territory in a scrappy opening spell before Lennox forced Vuiviwa Naduvalo into touch. Mullin scored from the resulting lineout.

The UCD clubman slipped out a tackle on the edge of the Fijian 22, invited Mullins to gobble up the space on the right wing and then took a return offload to raid in past two defenders and touch down closer to the posts.

Billy Dardis drilled over the conversion to give Topping’s charges a seven-point lead, which they retained up to the interval. Jack Kelly and McNulty led a smothering defence that saw Fiji struggle to get out of their own half.

However, Ilikimi Vunaki’s sin-binning for preventing a quick lineout went unpunished on the scoreboard, with a Mullin pass just too high for the advancing Mullins. The otherwise impressive Niall Comerford also lost the ball in contact.

As Fiji’s offloads began to stick and their dangermen stretched their legs, a breathless passage of play ended with Pilipo Bukayaro breaking clear to bring his team level with a 10th-minute converted effort.

Kennedy came on as Ireland clawed back the momentum, with fellow replacements Roche and Conroy both carrying well as they pushed Fiji back into their own half. That was until Jeremaia Matana won a turnover penalty.

The Fijians won another key decision at the breakdown just before the final hooter, and spotting a sliver of space between Conroy and Dardis, big Talacolo broke through for the match-winning try with 15 minutes on the clock.

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.

Day 1 Round-Up: Mullin Brace Sends Ireland Men Through As Pool Winners In Cape Town

Sunday, December 10 –


Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Terry Kennedy 3, Zac Ward 2, Hugo Lennox; Cons: Mark Roche 3
New Zealand: Tries: Tepaea Cook Savage, Cody Vai, Ngarohi McGarvey-Black; Cons: Tepaea Cook Savage 2, Ngarohi McGarvey-Black
HT: Ireland 26 New Zealand 0

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

Replacements used: Gavin Mullin, Hugo Lennox, Billy Dardis, Shane Jennings, Jack Kelly.


Scorers: Argentina: Tries: Santiago Mare 2, Matias Osadczuk, Santiago Alvarez; Cons: Joaquin Pellandini 2, Santiago Mare
Ireland: Tries: Jordan Conroy, Hugo Lennox, Chay Mullins; Cons: Hugo Lennox 2
HT: Argentina 19 Ireland 5

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

Replacements used: Gavin Mullin, Chay Mullins, Hugo Lennox. Not used: Billy Dardis, Jack Kelly.


IRELAND 7 FIJI 14, DHL Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Try: Gavin Mullin; Con: Billy Dardis
Fiji: Tries: Pilipo Bukayaro, Joseva Talacolo; Cons: Filipe Sauturaga 2
HT: Ireland 7 Fiji 0

Team: Jack Kelly, Niall Comerford, Harry McNulty (capt), Billy Dardis, Hugo Lennox, Gavin Mullin, Chay Mullins.

Replacements used: Jordan Conroy, Terry Kennedy, Mark Roche, Shane Jennings, Sean Cribbin.