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Late Mullin Double Does The Damage For Ireland Men Against Blitzboks

Late Mullin Double Does The Damage For Ireland Men Against Blitzboks

Late Mullin Double Does The Damage For Ireland Men Against Blitzboks

Gavin Mullin ran in two closing tries for the Ireland Men's Sevens team against South Africa in Madrid ©INPHO/Martin Seras Lima

The Ireland Men’s Sevens team (sponsored by TritonLake) erased a 14-point deficit with a thrilling three-try second half performance against South Africa at Madrid’s Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano.

Launching their challenge for the HSBC SVNS Championship crown, James Topping’s charges showed the never-say-die attitude that steered them to numerous tight wins across the season, and an eventual second place finish in the SVNS Series standings.

Moving on to this weekend’s inaugural Grand Final, they welcomed back Hugo Keenan and Andrew Smith to the squad, and recovered from a difficult position against the Blitzboks to record an opening 26-21 victory.

A trademark kick-chase try from Terry Kennedy was their only score as they trailed 21-7 early in the second half, before a barnstorming Zac Ward effort, and two closing seven-pointers from fellow replacement Gavin Mullin, made it a hard-earned, winning start.

With little or no margin for error, only the top two finishers in each pool will advance to Sunday’s Championship semi-finals. Ireland top Pool B on scoring difference from their next opponents Fiji, who defeated in-form New Zealand, 28-26, courtesy of a last-gasp converted try.

A big second day awaits with a top of the table clash between Ireland and Fiji at 1.06pm local time/12.06pm Irish time (live on RugbyPass TV), before Topping’s men face the All Blacks Sevens – at 4.11pm local time/3.11pm Irish time – in a repeat of the recent Singapore Sevens final.

Having been replaced earlier in the second half of today’s pool opener, Kennedy said afterwards: “Oh my God, it’s brutal watching those ones! Nearly as bad as it was out on the pitch. I mean the legs are certainly firing there.

“But we’re delighted to get over the line there. It’s a great start to the weekend. We always believed that we could do that well (competing for titles), and this year it’s great that we’re finally showing it.

“But the biggest one is yet to come, with the Olympics in Paris at the end of July, and then also this weekend, so hopefully we can go one step further.”

Asked about Keenan’s return from 15s duty with Leinster and Ireland, he added: “It’s brilliant to have Hugo back. He’s a good mate of mine, I played up through all the age groups with him. He started the first game there and did quite well, so it’s great to have him on board.”

South Africa signalled their intent straight away, with the leaping Impi Visser somehow managing to keep the kick-off in play, and a few phases later, Tiaan Pretorius jinked in under the posts for Tristan Leyds to convert.

With the Blitzboks overcooking the restart, Ireland pressed from a scrum on halfway with Keenan, stationed on the right wing, cutting inside Pretorius. A tight breakdown call against Aaron O’Sullivan handed possession back, though.

As South Africa threatened a breakout through their captain Selvyn Davids, O’Sullivan made the best use of his 6ft 2in frame to bat back his pass, making a key interception, and it duly led to Ireland’s opening try.

Skipper Harry McNulty and O’Sullivan made ground on both wings, before Kennedy put boot to ball from 70 metres out, brilliantly outpacing the South African chasers to touch down just to the left of the posts. Billy Dardis levelled with the conversion.

Philip Snyman’s side edged back in front by half-time, however, as some neat play off a lineout set up Leyds to slice in between Kennedy and Jordan Conroy and score in the left corner. Davids cleared the crossbar with a pinpoint kick, making it 14-7.

The gap was widened just after the restart as Conroy was stripped of possession by Justin Geduld, and young speedster Quewin Nortje was released by Leyds from 60 metres out, pinning his ears back for a sucker-punch try which Leyds also converted.

Crucially, that proved to be South Africa’s final score as Ireland, with the initial inspiration coming from Ward, gradually got on top. The Blitzboks applied some pressure at the breakdown before Ward created space for himself with a bludgeoning carry.

Deep inside the Irish 22, the Ballynahinch clubman bumped away Geduld’s attempted tackle, shrugged off Nortje, and evaded the diving Davids before surging downfield in superb fashion. Leyds was the closest chaser, but there was no stopping Ward as he reduced the arrears to 21-12.

Ward and McNulty began to turn the screw at the breakdown, with the latter forcing a penalty. Smith came off the bench to good effect, making metres with two solid carries, before Mullin’s crisp cut took him inside Siviwe Soyizwapi to score in the 13th minute.

With Hugo Lennox converting, it was a two-point game (21-19) with little over a minute remaining. The counter-rucking of McNulty and Smith quickly won back possession from the restart, although Lennox’s subsequent pass to Mullin went into touch.

Conroy kept his team in the hunt with a great chase down to prevent Soyizwapi from scoring. His vital tackle produced a knock-on, handing Ireland a scrum past the final hooter. A further penalty, and Lennox’s classy left boot, brought play up past halfway.

As the Blitzboks shot up in search of man-and-ball tackles, Ireland’s clever movement and handling kept the ball alive. Conroy cut inside two defenders and offloaded, while Lennox kept the attack going before being floored by some heavy contact.

Space was created on the right side with Ward and McNulty connecting neatly, and the latter, despite being tackled by Soyizwapi, got his offload away for Mullin to run in the match-winning try from five metres out. Lennox converted with the final kick.

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

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Squad (2024 HSBC SVNS Grand Final – Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano, Madrid, Friday, May 31-Sunday, June 2, 2024):

Niall Comerford (UCD RFC)
Jordan Conroy (Buccaneers RFC)
Sean Cribbin (Suttonians RFC)
Billy Dardis (Terenure College RFC)
Hugo Keenan (UCD RFC/Leinster)
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)
Aaron O’Sullivan (Blackrock College RFC)
Andrew Smith (Clontarf FC/Connacht)
Zac Ward (Ballynahinch RFC)

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Schedule – HSBC SVNS Grand Final – Madrid:

Friday, May 31 –


IRELAND 26 SOUTH AFRICA 21, Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano, Madrid
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Terry Kennedy, Zac Ward, Gavin Mullin 2; Cons: Billy Dardis, Hugo Lennox 2
South Africa: Tries: Tiaan Pretorius, Tristan Leyds, Quewin Nortje; Cons: Tristan Leyds 2, Selvyn Davids
HT: Ireland 7 South Africa 14

Team: Harry McNulty (capt), Niall Comerford, Aaron O’Sullivan, Billy Dardis, Terry Kennedy, Hugo Keenan, Jordan Conroy.

Replacements used: Zac Ward, Sean Cribbin, Gavin Mullin, Hugo Lennox, Andrew Smith.

Saturday, June 1 –


IRELAND v FIJI, Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano, Madrid, 1.06pm local time/12.06pm Irish time

IRELAND v NEW ZEALAND, Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano, Madrid, 4.11pm local time/3.11pm Irish time

Sunday, June 2 –