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All Blacks Sevens chase Series glory after golden point win over Ireland

By Finn Morton
New Zealand's Leroy Carter and Akuila Rokolisoa celebrate during the HSBC World Rugby Sevens men's play-off match between New Zealand and South Africa at the Metropolitano stadium in Madrid on June 1, 2024. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

It was the type of game that would’ve left you sitting on the edge of your seat. With a spot in the SVNS Series’ final four on the line for the victor, Saturday’s clash between New Zealand and Ireland was always going to deliver fireworks.

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Ireland have only beaten New Zealand once before on the men’s SVNS Series, and that history-making result came last December in Cape Town. They came close to replicating that feat in the Singapore Cup final last month but pulled up just short.

Unfortunately for the fighting Irish, it was a similar story in a golden point thriller at Madrid’s Civitas Metropolitano. With thousands of fans cheering, chanting and dreaming, the two teams battled it out in a sports atmosphere fitting for a Rugby World Cup.

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With both teams sitting equal on four competition points, the winner would join Fiji in the semi-finals. It looked to be the All Blacks Sevens’ day, but a Hugo Keenan try after the full-time siren gave them a chance to snatch it with a conversion.

The attempt went wide-right. Regan Ware scored the winner for the Kiwis in golden point.

Ireland bowed out while the All Blacks Sevens’ dream of claiming the overall SVNS Series title lives on for at least one more day. As captain Dylan Collier insisted after the Pool Championship win, the New Zealanders are here to win it all.

“That’s our main goal, that’s why we’re here, we want to win this and win the World Series,” Collier told RugbyPass. “Now that we’re through to the semi-final, anything can happen in finals footy.

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“We’ve have three tough games or three tight ones so that all should help us in going into finals footy.

“Obviously, a couple of other teams on the other side of the draw are playing pretty well so there’ll be some tough games coming up.”

The All Blacks Sevens started their quest for overall SVNS Series glory with a heartbreaking two-point loss to Fiji on day one. From the left sideline, a stunning conversion after the full-time siren had sounded gave the sport’s traditional heavyweights a famous win.

New Zealand looked to bounce back on Saturday morning against South Africa, and while they managed to do that 33-24 in another thriller, it by no means guaranteed their spot in the next stage. The Kiwis would have to win one more.

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While the men in black continued to search for that crucial win, Ireland were in the same boat after beating South Africa and losing to Fiji in golden point. It set the stage for a blockbuster Pool B clash that certainly lived up to the hype.

“Three really tough games, they went down to the wire in all three,” Collier explained.

“I feel like we’re playing some good rugby, aye? We look good when we’re going hard to the edges and our big boys are carrying.

“At times, just little lapses of concentration and we let them back in the game. With good teams like this, mate, if you let them back into the game then the momentum shifts.”

Rugby sevens veteran Joe Webber opened the scoring in the second minute, and a converted try to 2023 World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year nominee Leroy Carter more than doubled their advantage.

But Ireland showed plenty of heart and fight. Jordan Conroy ended up crossing for a double, but another try to Joe Webber saw the Kiwis take a slender lead into the final minute.

Hugo Keenan was the man of the moment. Ireland needed a hero and their marquee sevens recruit stepped up with a popular try in front of the European crowd, but the unsuccessful conversion presented an opportunity the New Zealanders were too good to turn down.

“It was a little bit frustrating that we didn’t actually finish the game well during the normal time.

“We (defended) really in keeping them out and keeping them out… bit inevitable that they were going to go over the line.

“But I think as soon as we got that chance when they missed the kick, when we get that little bit of a chance, that’s all we need.

“As long as we’re competent in that, then we’re confident in the way that we’re playing that we could deliver in extra time.”

Catch all of the SVNS Madrid action live and free on RugbyPass TV. To watch the Grand Final, register HERE.

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