The only base team since 2019, Ireland (sponsored by Lake Triton) finished 10th in their first year cut short by Covid-19 and placed sixth in the 2021 two-legged series.
Now, thanks to their heroic silver medal in Toulouse and two more top-four finishes, they have closed their first fully completed World Series in fifth place as the northern hemisphere’s premier nation.
The HSBC LA Sevens seen James Topping’s the team reached their eighth Cup quarter-final of the campaign, but New Zealand prevailed 29-14. Back on the pitch, Ireland then lost their grip on a 21-point lead against Argentina, which ended quickly.
The 28-21 play-off loss to the Pumas left the men in green with another top eight spot, their 10 ranking points taking their tally for the season to 92, ahead of the United States (87) and France (81), and behind Argentina, fourth (118).
“Fifth for us is huge because it’s only our first year on an entire World Series,” Coach Topping said. “Our goal has always been to keep our status as such, but the guys had some really, really good performances.
“There is a lot of competition (within the team). We had a fairly stable team for a few years, maybe 12, 13 or 14 guys to choose from. This year I think we have 22 guys who have played in the World Series.
“There are guys who entered the program and after a month they were sent there to show what they can do. So it’s a very good position to have experienced guys there, we can bring in three, four guys and see how they are doing.
“And then it also puts the pressure on the older guys, as such, to perform. We have a good mix at the minute. I have complete faith in all the players who go out on the pitch, but it’s given us this kind of team that can play for a full 14 minutes.
Captain Billy Dardis and this experienced core group keeps a firm hand on the tiller, with the tastes of Terry Kennedy continues to reach new heights as his total of 50 tries saw him crowned top scorer in the World Series Trials for 2021/22.
Eight players have made their World Series debuts for Ireland in the past nine months, doing very well. Youth Andre Smith and Chay Mullins have already played 61 games between them, scoring 13 tries.
An experienced New Zealand side put up a terrific first-half performance, taking a 24-0 half-time lead thanks to a series of tries from Joe Webber, Caleb Tangitau, Amanaki Nicole and Ngarohi McGarvey-Black .
They got the ball rebounded from the kickoff, allowing Webber to put them on the board quickly despite a hamstring injury in the process. Akuila Rokolisoa converted for a 7-0 lead.
A flat pass put Tangitau in the left corner as Ireland struggled for possession and territory, and New Zealand pushed 17 points clear when, after a lineout, they returned to the short side for Nicole Mark.
Some refereeing decisions went against Topping’s charges, Mark Roche left frustrated with an incorrect call for a forward, and the All Blacks side used possession from the scrum to send McGarvey-Black under the posts.
Ireland improved a lot at the start of the second half, Jordan Conroy increasing his threat and Roche cut the last two players to link up with Kennedy who darted through a gap to pull seven points back.
However, the game was aimless during the sin-bin period of Regan Ware, with Harry McNulty tackled short of the line and Ireland couldn’t get back into the running.
Nicole ignored a tackle at the other end to send Lewis Ormond into the left corner, while there was late consolation when Kennedy and McNulty combined, the latter’s accurate long pass allowing Ed Kelly to raid from afar.
IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS team (HSBC LA Sevens, Dignity Health Sports Park, August 27-28, 2022):
Jordan Conroy (Buccaneers RFC)
Niall Comerford (UCD RFC/Leinster)
Sean Cribbin (Suttonians RFC)
Billy Dardis (Terenure College RFC) (Captain)
Ed Kelly (Dublin University FC)
Jack Kelly (Dublin University FC)
Terry Kennedy (St. Mary’s College RFC)
Hugo Lennox (Skerries RFC)
Matt McDonald (IQ Rugby)
Harry McNulty (UCD RFC)
Bryan Mollen (Blackrock College RFC)
Chay Mullins (IQ Rugby)
Aaron O’Sullivan (Blackrock College RFC)
Mark Roche (Lansdowne FC)
Andrew Smith (Clontarf FC/Leinster)
HSBC WORLD RUGBY SEVENS SERIES – THE SEVENS RESULTS:
Saturday August 27 –
IRELAND 14 FRANCE 12, Dignity Health Sports Park
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Terry Kennedy, Chay Mullins; Cons: Hugo Lennox, Billy Dardis
France: Essays: Pierre Mignot, Varian Pasquet; Against: Thibaud Mazzoleni
TH: Ireland 7 France 5
Team: Harry McNulty, Bryan Mollen, Jack Kelly, Mark Roche, Hugo Lennox, Terry Kennedy, Aaron O’Sullivan.
Submarines used: Andrew Smith, Chay Mullins, Billy Dardis (captain), Niall Comerford, Ed Kelly.
IRELAND 46 WALES 12, Dignity Health Sports Park
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Terry Kennedy, Andrew Smith 2, Mark Roche, Niall Comerford, Aaron O’Sullivan 2, Chay Mullins; Cons: Billy Dardis, Mark Roche 2
Wales: Trials: Luke Treharne, Lloyd Lewis; Con: Luke Treharne
HT: Ireland 17 Wales 12
Team: Harry McNulty, Andrew Smith, Chay Mullins, Billy Dardis (capt), Hugo Lennox, Terry Kennedy, Ed Kelly.
Submarines used: Jack Kelly, Aaron O’Sullivan, Bryan Mollen, Mark Roche, Niall Comerford.
FIJI 21 IRELAND 7, Dignity Health Sports Park
Scorers: Fiji: Tries: Waisea Nacuqu, Kaminieli Rasaku, Iowane Teba; Against: Waisea Nacuqu 2, Kaminieli Rasaku
Ireland: Try: Harry McNulty; Con: Billy Dardis
HT: Fiji 14 Ireland 0
Team: Harry McNulty, Bryan Mollen, Andrew Smith, Mark Roche, Niall Comerford, Aaron O’Sullivan, Jordan Conroy.
Submarines used: Billy Dardis (captain), Ed Kelly, Chay Mullins, Hugo Lennox, Terry Kennedy.
Sunday August 28 –
NEW ZEALAND 29 IRELAND 14, Dignity Health Sports Park
Scorers: New Zealand: Tries: Joe Webber, Caleb Tangitau, Amanaki Nicole, Ngarohi McGarvey-Black, Lewis Ormond; Cons: Akuila Rokolisoa 2
Ireland: Essays: Terry Kennedy, Ed Kelly; Cons: Mark Roche, Billy Dardis
HT: New Zealand 24 Ireland 0
Team: Harry McNulty, Andrew Smith, Chay Mullins, Mark Roche, Hugo Lennox, Terry Kennedy, Jordan Conroy.
Subs used: Billy Dardis (captain), Aaron O’Sullivan, Ed Kelly, Bryan Mollen, Jack Kelly.
5TH PLACE SEMI-FINAL:
ARGENTINA 28 IRELAND 21, Dignity Health Sports Park
Scorers: Argentina: Tries: Rodrigo Isgro 2, Alejo Lavayen, Tomas Lizazu; Cons: Alejo Lavajen 4
Ireland: Trials: Jack Kelly, Ed Kelly, Bryan Mollen; Against: Billy Dardis 3
HT: Argentina 7 Ireland 21
Team: Bryan Mollen, Jack Kelly, Chay Mullins, Billy Dardis (captain), Niall Comerford, Terry Kennedy, Ed Kelly.
Submarines used: Andrew Smith, Harry McNulty, Hugo Lennox, Jordan Conroy, Mark Roche.
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