World Rugby Release
Ireland won the men’s Olympic Repechage tournament in Monaco, while France and Russia were victorious in the women’s qualifier finals on Sunday to book their tickets to Tokyo 2020.
Terry Kennedy opened the scoring early in the men’s qualifier final, but Ireland was required to recover from a 12-7 half-time deficit against France to secure their place at the Olympic Games for the first time.
Jordan Conroy scored a pair of second-half tries, while Harry McNulty added a fourth that put the seal on a 28-19 victory.
“It’s just bizarre,” Ireland captain Billy Dardis said. “You dream of doing something really special, and that’s playing rugby.
“It’s incredible what we’ve done just over a number of years. It’s absolutely incredible.
“It’s weird what went on on that pitch, I thought we were out of it for a while in that first half when they had so much possession and they got in front.
“And, then we just got a few lucky bounces. I think that’s sevens, if the bounce of the ball goes your way, you can end up in the Olympics.”
The majority of the 5,000 fans inside Stade Louis II had hoped to see a France double after Les Bleues had earlier sealed their qualification to Tokyo alongside Russia.
France’s women beat Hong Kong 51-0 to secure their return to the Games while Russia will make their Olympic debut in Japan next month after winning 38-0 against Kazakhstan.
“I’m so happy, I can’t describe it,” France’s Lina Guerin said. “We worked for this for a while and it’s now [happened]. We are super happy, but not finished.”
Samoa’s women kicked off day three in Monaco with a narrow 20-17 defeat of Mexico that booked the Manu Sina Sevens’ passage to the qualifier semi-finals.
However, that was as far as the Pacific Island nation would go as they were beaten by Russia in the knockout stage.
Andrey Kuzin’s side had made sure of top spot in Pool A with a seven-try win against Argentina but found it tougher to breach the Samoan defence. Elena Zdrokova scored two tries in as many minutes at the end of the first half, however, and the Russians went on to win 29-0.
The victory set up a qualifier final against Kazakhstan, who had beaten Papua New Guinea 17-10 to top Pool B and then overcame Tunisia 29-21 in an absorbing semi-final.
Russia was too strong for the Asian side and ran in four tries before half-time through captain Alena Tiron, Anna Baranchuk, Marina Kukina, and Nadezhda Sozonova.
Elena Zdrokova added two tries after the break to take her tally at the repechage to nine and put the seal on a 38-0 victory and Olympic qualification.
“I’m incredibly happy, I can’t hold my tears. We were chasing it for many years and we have achieved it,” Tiron said after the final.
“When we came into this tournament I was mentally ready to win but now I can’t hold back the tears.”
She added: “All the teams haven’t played for a long time so I’m pretty sure that we can try to get a medal at the Olympics. We have one month to prepare to do our best in Tokyo.”
Anne-Cécile Ciofani, Chloe Jacquet, and Séraphine Okemba were among the tries as France won their first match on Sunday 55-0 against Hong Kong.
Victory confirmed Les Bleues’ place as top seeds in the women’s repechage, and a qualifier semi-final against Colombia, who had held off Madagascar earlier in the day to win 12-7.
France had too much for the South Americans, scoring through Shannon Izar in the first minute and David Courtiex’s side went on to win comfortably, 52-0.
Hong Kong, who had beaten Argentina 24-5 in their qualifier semi-final thanks in no small part to an inspired display from co-captain Natasha Olsen-Thorne, were Les Bleues’ opposition in their final.
To the delight of many inside Stade Louis II, France started strongly and took less than a minute to open the scoring as captain Fanny Horta took a pass from Okembe to touch down.
It was a dominant performance from the French as Guerin and Ciofani both completed hat-tricks. Okembe, meanwhile, scored her ninth and 10th tries of the tournament in the second period to ensure Les Bleues qualified for Tokyo 2020 in style with a 49-0 win.
“I don’t really have any words to explain what I feel now, it’s just crazy,” Okembe said.
“Yes, I scored the tries but it’s all teamwork, the girls gave me the space to do what I’ve done. It’s just teamwork.”
Day three of the men’s repechage got underway with a comeback win for Zimbabwe, who recovered from 12-0 down to beat Tonga 26-17 in Pool A.
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series core teams Ireland and Samoa were already assured of progress to the qualifier semi-finals, but it was the Irish who did so as Pool A winners.
Picking up where he left off on Saturday, Terry Kennedy produced an audacious behind-the-back pass to set up Jordan Conroy for Ireland’s second try in their 21-7 win.
Ireland’s points difference ensured they headed into the semi-finals as top seeds, and Anthony Eddy’s side proved too strong for Hong Kong, winning 28-5.
France, cheered on by the majority of the 5,000 crowd at Stade Louis II, were Ireland’s opponents in the showpiece match.
The World Series core team had enjoyed serene progress to the final, beating Hong Kong 36-5 and following that up with an impressive 31-0 win against Samoa in the semi-finals.
But, in a sign of what was to come Kennedy crossed the whitewash for Ireland within the opening minute.
France recovered to lead 12-7 at half-time, thanks to tries from Stephen Parez and Paulin Riva, but they were reeled in during the second half and Terry Bouhraoua’s late score was nothing more than a consolation.
It was a joy for Ireland at the final whistle, who will make their Olympic debut in Tokyo next month following their pulsating 28-19 victory.