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Ireland Men Edged Out Of Championship Contention In Madrid

Ireland Men Edged Out Of Championship Contention In Madrid

Ireland Men Edged Out Of Championship Contention In Madrid

Head coach James Topping talks to the Ireland Men's Sevens team in a huddle following their extra-time defeat to Fiji in Madrid ©INPHO/Martin Seras Lima

Two agonising extra-time defeats knocked the Ireland Men’s Sevens team (sponsored by TritonLake) out of Championship title contention at the HSBC SVNS Grand Final in Madrid.

Having fought back to win yesterday’s opening game against South Africa by five points, Ireland lost to both Fiji and New Zealand by the same margin as Viwa Naduvalo and Regan Ware respectively registered golden point scores for Pool B’s top two finishers.

Jordan Conroy and the returning Hugo Keenan scored levelling tries to force extra-time in both matches, but in a winner-takes-all clash with the All Blacks Sevens, Sean Cribbin missed what would have been the match-winning conversion at 17-all.

Instead, it was New Zealand who went on to win thanks to Ware’s 16th-minute effort. Key playmaker Terry Kennedy, who is nursing a nasty facial injury, and former captain Billy Dardis both missed that crunch final pool game after a bruising 26-21 defeat to Fiji.

Having finished third in a heavyweight Pool B, James Topping’s charges will be determined to bounce back when they play Great Britain, Pool A’s bottom-placed team, in the 5th place semi-finals tomorrow (kick-off 10.49am local time/9.49am Irish time – live on RugbyPass TV).

With two-time Olympic gold medallist Jerry Tuwai back on board, Fiji are regaining form at just the right time of the year. Tuwai’s nicely-timed pass sent Joji Nasova over in the left corner in the second minute, despite Harry McNulty almost getting him into touch.

Ireland were struggling for territory, and a heavy tackle on Dardis as he threw a pass left him unable to continue. Andrew Smith’s turnover penalty was something to build on, but Fiji stole the subsequent lineout and made it count to go 14 points up.

Veteran scrum half Tuwai used the possession to jink away from both Hugo Lennox and Smith, the opportunist score standing despite McNulty protesting that his arm was played in the air at the lineout.

A timely response from Chay Mullins saw Ireland hit back on the stroke of half-time. Lennox launched Gavin Mullin on a bustling blindside break, the late try-scoring hero from the opening day bouncing off Iowane Teba’s tackle to gain plenty of ground.

Kennedy, this season’s SVNS Series top try scorer, was crowded out on the left, but play was whipped back to the right side where Lennox’s arcing pass put Mullins over from 18 metres out. He also drilled over the tough conversion to leave seven points in it – 14-7.

A TMO review ended with Nasova being sin-binned for head-on-head contact with Kennedy during the build-up to Ireland’s first try. Into the second half, Lennox and Smith lifted the tempo by taking two penalties quickly, but an attempted offload from Conroy was knocked on by Mullins.

Despite Fiji returning to their full complement, McNulty rushed up in defence to force a crucial knock-on. From the resulting scrum, Lennox crossed from close range, using a clever dummy and showing good strength to reach over. He added the extras too.

The Fijians brilliantly nipped back ahead in the 12th minute, as Tira Wilagi broke from deep inside his own 22. He won the race to his own chip kick and then put boot to ball a second time, allowing fellow replacement Naduvalo to collect and dot down behind the posts.

That left Ireland with another seven-point deficit (21-14) to erase, and just 70 seconds left when the restart was kicked. McNulty claimed a loose Fijian offload just before the final hooter, giving his side precious possession and a chance to draw level again.

They took it with both hands, exploiting some space on the left where Conroy displayed his finishing skills to absorb a tackle from Nasova and ground the ball before going out of play.

Lennox coolly slotted over the touchline conversion with a peach of a kick, but his long pass to put Zac Ward into space was ruled forward inside the opening minutes of extra-time.

That gave Fiji scrum ball inside Ireland’s 22, and there was no denying Naduvalo as possession was swept wide to him and he had the pace to get over in the right corner for the decisive score.

Second place was still up for grabs in the pool, but with Keenan pinged early on for an extra roll, New Zealand got on the front foot in a repeat of the recent Singapore Sevens final. Joe Webber then used some nice footwork and acceleration to score out wide on the right.

Leroy Carter sliced through from a ruck in the fourth minute, shrugging off two attempted tackles to make it 12-0. Some slick interplay got Ireland’s attack going in response, with scrum half Lennox darting up into the opposition 22.

Niall Comerford was hauled down just short, but with a Dylan Collier knock-on handing Ireland a scrum in an advanced position, Keenan’s long pass gave Mullin the chance to neatly step inside Webber and send Conroy over out wide.

Despite Lennox nailing the conversion with aplomb, New Zealand squeezed in their third try just before the interval. They held the edge at the breakdown, and Carter took a penalty quickly to release Webber for the whitewash again.

Trailing 17-7 at the turnaround, Ireland hit back with a textbook team try. Ward made the hard yards, dragging two defenders to ground. Quick ball made its way across to Conroy who backed himself to crash over, with Keenan drawing attention on the outside.

Lennox’s radar was slightly off as he missed the conversion and overcooked the restart, although his impact at the next breakdown, in tandem with replacement Aaron O’Sullivan, saw Ireland earn turnover ball in the form of a scrum.

When O’Sullivan advanced into the Kiwi 22, his pass – intended for fellow replacement Smith – was just off target. The Connacht winger fired back, with barely 90 seconds left, to win turnover ball at the breakdown.

The bad run of luck with injuries continued with O’Sullivan having to hobble off, yet two late penalties inside the New Zealand 22 gave Ireland the platform they needed. Smith tapped and flung a long pass out for Keenan to duck under two tackles and make it 17-all.

Cribbin’s left-sided conversion flashed wide, though, and it was up to extra-time to decide who would progress to the last-four. The recent Hong Kong and Singapore Sevens champions prevailed in the end, with the fresh legs of Ware crossing from the right wing.

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.

Day 1 Round-Up: Late Mullin Double Does The Damage For Ireland Men Against Blitzboks

Saturday, June 1 –


IRELAND 21 FIJI 26 (after extra-time), Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano, Madrid
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Chay Mullins, Hugo Lennox, Jordan Conroy; Cons: Hugo Lennox 3
Fiji: Tries: Joji Nasova, Jerry Tuwai, Viwa Naduvalo 2; Cons: Iowane Teba 2, Waisea Nacuqu
HT: Ireland 7 Fiji 14

Team: Harry McNulty (capt), Andrew Smith, Chay Mullins, Billy Dardis, Sean Cribbin, Gavin Mullin, Terry Kennedy.

Replacements used: Hugo Lennox, Jordan Conroy, Zac Ward, Niall Comerford, Hugo Keenan.

IRELAND 17 NEW ZEALAND 22 (after extra-time), Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano, Madrid
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Jordan Conroy 2, Hugo Keenan; Con: Hugo Lennox
New Zealand: Tries: Joe Webber 2, Leroy Carter, Regan Ware; Con: Andrew Knewstubb
HT: Ireland 7 New Zealand 17

Team: Harry McNulty (capt), Niall Comerford, Zac Ward, Hugo Lennox, Gavin Mullin, Hugo Keenan, Jordan Conroy.

Replacements used: Aaron O’Sullivan, Andrew Smith, Sean Cribbin, Chay Mullins.

Sunday, June 2 –


IRELAND v GREAT BRITAIN, Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano, Madrid, 10.49am local time/9.49am Irish time