Ireland sevens team have been crowned champions at their very first Rugby Europe Sevens Grand Prix Series tournament in Moscow, triumphing 12-0 over Spain in a tightly-contested final on Sunday.
The Moscow Sevens title gives Ireland a big boost, with Anthony Eddy's young side making an immediate impact in the top flight of European Sevens – two years on from winning the Division C and B competitions and a year on from their European Trophy success.
Having finished as Pool A runners-up behind Germany on Saturday, Ireland went unbeaten on day two and are now in pole position to book one of the last two qualifying places available to European teams for next year’s RWC Sevens in San Francisco.
Two tries from the brilliant Harry McNulty helped them beat Portugal 19-17 in a closely-fought Cup quarter-final to set up a crack at reigning Grand Prix Series champions Russia in the last four. Ireland withstood a fierce comeback from the tournament hosts to hang on and claim a 28-21 victory.
Spain, who recently secured core status for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2017-18 and played in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, were Ireland's opponents in the Moscow decider after day two wins over Germany and Italy saw the Los Leones Sevens make the final.
A try in each half from Fionn Carr, who impressed in the final two games, and Ian Fitzpatrick – allied to a terrific defensive display – saw Eddy's charges prevail with a 12-0 scoreline.
Russia took third place following a 31-12 win over the other beaten semi-finalist Italy.
The European Grand Prix Sevens Series, which continues next weekend in Lodz, Poland, has the carrot of two RWC Sevens places for nations outside of those who are already pre-qualified from the 2013 edition in Moscow or via the 2016-17 world series. The European sides who have already qualified for San Francisco are England, Wales, France and Scotland.
Russia are the only European team in the Grand Prix Series who are outside of automatic qualification so they, along with the likes of Spain, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Georgia, look set to be Ireland's main competition for the top two places over the coming weeks.
Ireland are the early pace-setters in the Grand Prix Series, picking up 20 series points for their Moscow triumph. They will have Germany, Poland and Portugal for company in Pool A next Saturday in Lodz.
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