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Ward Emerges As Ireland Men’s Extra-Time Hero Against Fiji

Ward Emerges As Ireland Men’s Extra-Time Hero Against Fiji

Ward Emerges As Ireland Men’s Extra-Time Hero Against Fiji

Zac Ward touched down four times in Vancouver to take his try haul for this season's HSBC SVNS Series to 13 in four tournaments ©INPHO/Travis Prior

The Ireland Men’s Sevens team (sponsored by TritonLake) got the better of Fiji for the second tournament running, as Zac Ward’s extra-time try decided a thrilling fifth place play-off in Vancouver.

Having burst down the right wing, Ward was not held in a tackle from Terio Veilawa and regained his feet to score and seal a battling 24-19 win for James Topping’s side at the latest HSBC SVNS Series leg.

Ireland had to show a lot of mental toughness over the weekend, recovering from two opening defeats to reach the Cup quarter-finals by beating South Africa 22-10, while yesterday brought late heartbreak courtesy of France Sevens debutant Antoine Dupont.

Dupont’s try past the final hooter knocked Topping’s charges out of contention for the medals, but they rallied again to maintain their record of finishing in the top five at every SVNS Series event so far this season.

Two Terry Kennedy tries, along with a close-range Chay Mullins effort, had Ireland leading Fiji 19-7 at half-time. The reigning Olympic champions hit back to draw level and force a golden point scenario, but the in-form Ward fittingly had the final say.

The Ballynahinch clubman scored four tries on BC Place’s artificial pitch, taking his 2023/24 tally to 13 in all. Only Kennedy (19) has scored more tries for Ireland at the midpoint of the HSBC SVNS Series campaign.

With Ireland gaining 12 points for their efforts in Vancouver, they have risen to second place in the overall SVNS Series standings, on 54 points, ahead of next week’s fifth leg in Los Angeles.

They are currently ahead of Fiji (54) on scoring difference (+81 to +74), with New Zealand, the silver medallists, in fourth spot (50), and Argentina (78) tightening their grip on top spot following their third successive tournament win.

Fiji flew out of the traps in the play-off clash with captain Napolioni Bolaca cruising in under the posts inside the opening seconds. His kick-off was slapped back in his direction by big Joseva Talacolo, and Ireland were immediately seven points in arrears.

Niall Comerford led the Irish response with a clever break from deep. Kennedy then used scrum possession near the opposition 22 to duck and dodge his way in between two defenders, and beat Pilipo Bukayaro with another slick sidestep, for a terrific individual try.

It was a quick-fire double from Kennedy, who launched a kick chase off another scrum. The bouncing ball connected with the post padding, evading the covering Bukayaro, and the St. Mary’s College speedster got the grounding as confirmed by the TMO review.

Ed Kelly, playing at scrum half, added both conversions to open up a 14-7 lead, and with Fiji leaking penalties, Ireland were clinical in attack past the half-time hooter. Harry McNulty took a quick tap and fed Mullins who stepped off his right to leave 14 points in it.

However, when the second half got underway, captain McNulty’s big leap to knock back restart worked against his team. Jeremaia Matana was there to swoop in and launch a pacy break downfield, eventually laying off for Talacolo to touch down.

Holding onto the momentum, Fiji squared things up at 19-all in the 11th minute after Viliame Naikausa had swept past three missed tackles to raid in behind the posts, and Bolaca comfortably converted.

Ireland made their first changes with Jordan Conroy and Connor O’Sullivan coming on, and Ward and Billy Dardis not far behind them. The fresh legs helped them to stretch the Fijian defence out to both wings, but it remained all-square on the scoreboard.

Conroy was inches away from scoring in the left corner, yet Ponipate Loganimas’ last-ditch tackle was enough to force some separation between the Tullamore man’s left hand and the ball.

Fiji almost turned a frantic kick chase into the decisive score past the final hooter. The ball broke away from Conroy and Bukayaro, who got his boot to it, but Ward covered the danger by racing back to Ireland’s 22 and kicking the ball dead.

Into extra-time, Conroy had to react quickly to tidy up another Fijian kick, but when McNulty beat Alusio Vakadranu’s tackle, suddenly there was a break on with Conroy linking with Ward, 30 metres out from the Irish line.

The 25-year-old forward gobbled up the space in front of him, accelerating after fending off Veilawa near halfway. Veilawa gave chase and brought Ward to ground inside Fiji’s 22, but he rolled and bounced up to make it over the line for a glorious golden point score.

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Squad (HSBC SVNS Series – Vancouver 7s, BC Place, Vancouver, Friday, February 23-Sunday, February 25, 2024):

Niall Comerford (UCD RFC)
Jordan Conroy (Buccaneers RFC)
Sean Cribbin (Suttonians RFC)
Billy Dardis (Terenure College RFC)
Ed Kelly (Dublin University FC)
Terry Kennedy (St. Mary’s College RFC)
Hugo Lennox (Skerries RFC)
Matthew McDonald (Ireland Sevens)
Harry McNulty (UCD RFC) (capt)
Gavin Mullin (UCD RFC)
Chay Mullins (Galway Corinthians RFC/Connacht/IQ Rugby)
Connor O’Sullivan (Lansdowne FC)
Zac Ward (Ballynahinch RFC)

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Schedule – HSBC SVNS Series – Vancouver:

Friday, February 23 –


Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Jordan Conroy, Zac Ward; Cons: Billy Dardis 2
Great Britain: Tries: Robbie Fergusson, Morgan Williams, Will Homer; Con: Tom Emery
HT: Ireland 14 Great Britain 7

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

Replacements used: Niall Comerford, Hugo Lennox, Chay Mullins, Gavin Mullin. Not used: Ed Kelly.

Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Niall Comerford, Connor O’Sullivan; Cons: Hugo Lennox 2
New Zealand: Tries: Joe Webber, Akuila Rokolisoa, Tepaea Cook Savage; Cons: Akuila Rokolisoa 2
HT: Ireland 0 New Zealand 14

Team: Harry McNulty (capt), Niall Comerford, Chay Mullins, Billy Dardis, Gavin Mullin, Terry Kennedy, Ed Kelly.

Replacements used: Hugo Lennox, Jordan Conroy, Zac Ward, Sean Cribbin, Connor O’Sullivan.

Day 1 Round-Up: Opening Win Proves Elusive For Ireland Men At Vancouver Sevens

Saturday, February 24 –


Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Zac Ward 2, Hugo Lennox, Gavin Mullin; Con: Billy Dardis
South Africa: Tries: David Brits, Rosko Specman
HT: Ireland 10 South Africa 5

Team: Zac Ward, Connor O’Sullivan, Harry McNulty (capt), Hugo Lennox, Sean Cribbin, Gavin Mullin, Jordan Conroy.

Replacements used: Terry Kennedy, Niall Comerford, Billy Dardis, Matthew McDonald, Chay Mullins.

Day 2 Round-Up: Ireland Men Beat Blitzboks To Reach Vancouver’s Last-Eight


Scorers: France: Tries: Jordan Sepho, Antoine Dupont; Con: Rayan Rebbadj
Ireland: Try: Harry McNulty
HT: France 5 Ireland 0

Team: Zac Ward, Connor O’Sullivan, Harry McNulty (capt), Ed Kelly, Sean Cribbin, Terry Kennedy, Chay Mullins.

Replacements used: Billy Dardis, Niall Comerford, Jordan Conroy, Matthew McDonald, Gavin Mullin.

Sunday, February 25 –


FIJI 19 IRELAND 24, BC Place (after extra-time)
Scorers: Fiji: Tries: Napolioni Bolaca, Joseva Talacolo, Viliame Naikausa; Cons: Napolioni Bolaca 2
Ireland: Tries: Terry Kennedy 2, Chay Mullins, Zac Ward; Cons: Ed Kelly 2
HT: Fiji 7 Ireland 19

Team: Matthew McDonald, Niall Comerford, Harry McNulty (capt), Ed Kelly, Gavin Mullin, Terry Kennedy, Chay Mullins.

Replacements used: Jordan Conroy, Connor O’Sullivan, Zac Ward, Billy Dardis, Sean Cribbin.