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Ireland Men Overhaul Samoa To Sit Second In Hong Kong Pool

Ireland Men Overhaul Samoa To Sit Second In Hong Kong Pool

Ireland Men Overhaul Samoa To Sit Second In Hong Kong Pool

Bryan Mollen was one of Ireland's try scorers during their Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens opener against South Africa ©INPHO/Martin Seras Lima

The Ireland Men (sponsored by TritonLake) occupy second place in Pool C thanks to four hard-earned points on the opening day of the Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens tournament.

In Pics: Ireland Sevens – Day 1 Action From Hong Kong

Having conceded four times to a fast-starting South Africa, Ireland capitalised on Justin Geduld’s red card to reply with three tries in an eventual 22-17 defeat in humid conditions.

James Topping’s side also fell behind during the first half against Samoa, but timely scores from Terry Kennedy (9 minutes) and Zac Ward (12) guided them to their opening victory of the weekend.

Only four points separate the teams in the pool, so Ireland’s bid to continue their run of reaching Cup quarter-finals will rest on tomorrow morning’s showdown with third-placed Spain at 10.39am local time/3.39am Irish time.

This is the penultimate leg of the HSBC SVNS Series’ regular rounds, leading towards the inaugural Grand Final event in Madrid (May 31-June 2). The current second seeds, Ireland gave a debut to the 20-year-old Zac McConnell in the Samoa game.

You can watch all of the HSBC SVNS Series matches for free on RugbyPass TV or on TNT Sports, while there will be coverage of Ireland’s progress in Hong Kong across the @Ireland7s social media channels, and in our Ireland Sevens Hub.

The in-form Ward took down the South African kick-off, but Ireland could not make much headway. The Blitzboks seized the early momentum when Shilton van Wyk hit the line at pace to turn scrum possession into a seven-pointer from halfway.

Despite Ed Kelly’s textbook cover tackle denying Ryan Oosthuizen a try, Irish handling errors were proving costly. From an advanced scrum position, Dewald Human was released to get past Sean Cribbin and make it 12-0.

Kennedy entered the fray and narrowly missed out on a turnover penalty, before South Africa proved deadly again from set-piece ball. Their captain Selvyn Davids timed his pass well to release Quewin Nortje for a speedy finish from the left wing.

17-0 became 22-0 early in the second half when Oosthuizen was the beneficiary of a quick tap and a spread of passes out to the right. With Davids overcooking his restart kick, Ireland were quick to make him pay.

Kennedy tapped from halfway, drew in a couple of defenders and offloaded for the onrushing Ward to charge through and score from 38 metres out, despite Davids’ despairing tackle. Hugo Lennox converted.

Following a Harry McNulty-won penalty and sharper work in attack, replacement Chay Mullins was tackled high by Geduld. The head-on-head contact prompted his dismissal, and Bryan Mollen scored from his own tap penalty a couple of phases later.

Now pushing for at least a losing bonus point, Ireland wore down the six-man defence for Kennedy to send Niall Comerford over inside the final seconds.

It was a five-point game with Lennox missing the conversion, but South Africa hung on despite Irish claims for an accidental offside penalty from the last restart.

Wearing jersey number 66, McConnell made his Ireland Sevens bow as a starter against Samoa. He was busy in defence early on, and a ball-dislodging tackle from Kennedy appeared to end a long spell of possession for the Samoans.

However, they closed down McNulty in midfield and counter-rucked successfully, forcing the ball loose for Motu Opetai to pick up and canter in under the posts. His third-minute try was converted by Neueli Leitufia.

McConnell made an important tackle on Tuna Tuitama as Samoa continued to have the lion’s share of possession. A couple of penalties prevented Ireland from building pressure in attack, apart from a strong run past halfway from Ward.

Samoa’s lead was erased by the 10-minute mark, though, as Kennedy launched a kick chase from just inside Ireland’s 10-metre line. He outpaced three defenders, including Leitufia, to dribble through and dot down a terrific solo try.

Mark Roche swung over a brilliant conversion to boot, and a second Irish touchdown soon followed. Mollen gobbled up an overthrown Samoan lineout, fellow replacement Gavin Mullin raided through into the opposition 22, and Mollen then went quickly from a penalty.

Skipper McNulty was brought down short of the try-line, but Ward, under pressure from Uaina Tui Sione’s high tackle, showed impressive strength to ground the ball by the right corner flag and avoid being bundled into touch.

It proved to be the decisive score as Samoa, with replacement Daniel Patelesio knocking on inside his own half, coughed up possession for a final Irish scrum. That allowed Kennedy to play down the clock and kick the ball dead.

Speaking after the game, Ward said: “I think the try just came off the back of a lot of hard work from the team. We went through about five or six phases to get into their 22, and I was just fortunate to get on the end of some good team play.

“Pretty slippery ball. The humidity, you can’t really prepare for it. But we love playing here. The crowd is just phenomenal.

“We get such a buzz off the crowd. Whether they’re for us or against us, we feed off it and it gives us great energy on the pitch.”

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Squad (2024 HSBC SVNS Series – Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, Hong Kong Stadium, Friday, April 5-Sunday, April 7, 2024):

Niall Comerford (UCD RFC)
Sean Cribbin (Suttonians RFC)
Ed Kelly (Dublin University FC)
Terry Kennedy (St. Mary’s College RFC)
Hugo Lennox (Skerries RFC)
Zac McConnell (Ireland Sevens) *
Matthew McDonald (Ireland Sevens)
Harry McNulty (UCD RFC) (capt)
Bryan Mollen (UCD RFC)
Gavin Mullin (UCD RFC)
Chay Mullins (Galway Corinthians RFC/Connacht/IQ Rugby)
Mark Roche (Lansdowne FC)
Zac Ward (Ballynahinch RFC)

* Denotes uncapped player

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Schedule – HSBC SVNS Series – Hong Kong:

Friday, April 5 –


IRELAND 17 SOUTH AFRICA 22, Hong Kong Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Zac Ward, Bryan Mollen, Niall Comerford; Con: Hugo Lennox
South Africa: Tries: Shilton van Wyk, Dewald Human, Quewin Nortje, Ryan Oosthuizen; Con: Dewald Human
HT: Ireland 0 South Africa 17

Team: Harry McNulty (capt), Matthew McDonald, Zac Ward, Mark Roche, Sean Cribbin, Gavin Mullin, Ed Kelly.

Replacements used: Terry Kennedy, Bryan Mollen, Niall Comerford, Hugo Lennox, Chay Mullins.

IRELAND 12 SAMOA 7, Hong Kong Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Terry Kennedy, Zac Ward; Con: Mark Roche
Samoa: Try: Motu Opetai; Con: Neueli Leitufia
HT: Ireland 0 Samoa 7

Team: Harry McNulty (capt), Niall Comerford, Zac Ward, Hugo Lennox, Sean Cribbin, Terry Kennedy, Zac McConnell.

Replacements used: Mark Roche, Bryan Mollen, Gavin Mullin, Chay Mullins. Not used: Ed Kelly.

Saturday, April 6 –

IRELAND v SPAIN, Hong Kong Stadium, 10.39am local time/3.39am Irish time


Sunday, April 7 –