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'That killed us': The Ireland verdict on latest 7s semi-final loss

By Liam Heagney
Ireland huddle at the Hong Kong 7s (Photo by Mike Lee/World Rugby)

Frustration was writ large over the face of Terry Kennedy in the immediate aftermath of his team’s second successive HSBC SVNS semi-final loss to France.

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Five weeks ago in Los Angeles, the French narrowly won the last-four match 24-26. In Hong Kong, though, there was no tight finish as the Irish lost out 10-26, their second score only coming from the defiant Kennedy with the game’s final play.

What cost his team on a humid Sunday in the Far East was a lack of composure just before the interval. A converted Varian Pasquet try had been followed by Zac Ward getting an unconverted try back and with Jordan Sepho then yellow-carded, the invitation was there for Ireland to pounce for the lead.

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However, they instead lost their bearings against the French six, Stephen Parez bursting through the defence to score a converted try in front of the South Stand fanatics to make 5-12.

The semi-final result was then put to bed by two quick-fire second-half tries from Antoine Zeghdar and Joachim Trouabal, leaving Ireland playing for the consolation they eventually grabbed through Kennedy racing onto a kick through to the corner.

“We’ll always play to the end,” he told RugbyPass. “We are probably one of the best if not the best at staying in games. That’s what was so disappointing about that one – it was over with a few minutes to go but we will keep fighting until the end as always.”

What was mentioned in the stadium tunnel debrief about what had gone wrong? “Our kick-offs really let us down. They dominated the air on both sides of the ball. That cost us; we gave a couple of really easy scores.

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“Once we got it through phases we were defending really well, and the couple of times we had the ball we scored, but we just gave them too much easy ball off kick-offs.

“It [kick-offs] has been good for us so it is pretty disappointing, but France are a big team. They are good in the air so it is a strength of theirs and something we need to work on.

“We were never really in that,” he added concerning the scoreboard compared to the two-point gap on the American west coast at the start of March. “We had a chance when we came back two points behind, they got a yellow card and we let them a soft score before half-time with six men. Really, that killed us. Lots to learn.”

Lessons, yes, but plenty of cause for optimism that a season that will culminate in the HSBC SVNS Series final in Madrid followed by an appearance at the Paris Olympics in July.

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“100 per cent. We made a lot of semi-finals this year, just struggling to go that little extra mile but a few more big ones coming up yet with the Olympics at the end. We’re still striving.

“We are well capable of beating anyone and we have beaten everyone this year and most teams multiple times. So yeah, we’re right up there, we’re nearly there. They [France] have some amazing athletes and they are tough to play against. They are going to be there or thereabouts in every tournament from here on in, I say.”

Ireland went on in LA to beat Spain 24-7 to finish in third place and this latest semi-final loss to France left them with another third-place play-off, this time versus Australia whom they defeated 14-5 to clinch another bronze.

Before that game took place, Kennedy ended his semi-final reflection by paying tribute to the final tournament at the stadium in Hong Kong Island before it switches to a brand new ground across the bay in 2025.

“It’s unbelievable. This is the best place to play in the world. The crowd is unbelievable. All you have to do is come out here 9am Saturday and you see the South Stand full and people enjoying themselves.

“It’s amazing to get to play in front of this type of crowd in an iconic stadium. We love it.”

  • Click here to follow all the action live from Hong Kong on RugbyPass TV 

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B.J. Spratt 3 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

You Poms and Paddies are really nice guys. New Zealand V Ireland - 37 Tests - N.Z. 31 Wins - Ireland 5 Wins - 1 draw. New Zealand V England - 45 Tests - N.Z. 35 Wins -England 8 Wins - 2 draws. Combined - You have beaten the All Blacks 13 Times in 82 attempts over 119 years. The Stats over 100 years + would say, especially England with 6 Times the player pool than New Zealand, you have “a limitation of context” regarding developing your coaches to teach your players how to WIN. So how can England with a 6 times the player numbers have a 17% winning strike rate against New Zealand? and be 8 -0 in Test Series over 100 years. The answer is simple. Your perception of the game. How do you fix it? You need to play in New Zealand for a couple of seasons in your teens, 18 -20 or send coaches over here. Martin Johnstone played 2 seasons here under the mentorship of Colin Meads. When he came here he had rugby shorts with pockets and a handkerchief in one pocket. He played for NZ Under 21 against Wallaby John Eales. He became the toughest player in the game and the best ever English Captain and Captained the Lions twice. Legend! Maybe if he hadn’t come to New Zealand, he may still had those rugby shorts with pockets. Recently Rogan O’Gara spent time at the Crusaders. What a great coach. “Our “mindset is different” and that’s how we have beaten you for 100 years + How the hell he isn’t Coaching Ireland, France, England, Wales, or Scotland I will never know? England has 131,000 Senior rugby Players. Ireland has 21,000 Senior Players. New Zealand has 27,000 Senior Players.

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