Last year’s Rugby Europe Grand Prix Sevens Series runners-up Ireland made a great start in their attempt to go one better and win this year's event after claiming the first tournament title on offer in Moscow.
The RWC Sevens 2018 qualifiers successfully defended the Moscow Sevens trophy they had won 12 months ago by going through the two days of competition unbeaten, scoring 29 tries with only one penalty try conceded in reply.
The wet and difficult underfoot conditions at Oktyabr Stadium tested the teams throughout the tournament, but Ireland were a class apart, defeating Poland (29-0), Portugal (35-0) and Germany (33-0) in the pool stages, before overcoming Spain (26-0), France (31-0) and then Germany again in the final, 28-7.
Look at the final ranking of the first leg of @rugby_europe 2018 #Sevens Grand Prix Series #7sGPS . Next leg in France (Marcoussis) on June 29th.— Rugby Europe (@rugby_europe) May 20, 2018
Results, details and replays of #Moscow7s GP on https://t.co/aiHRWQ35CYpic.twitter.com/ifyj7ew5ad
Terry Kennedy pipped the fit-again Jordan Conroy to the top try scorer accolade, the pacey pair terrorising defences over both days with Kennedy notching nine tries in all and Conroy finishing with eight, including four alone against the French.
Eight players, including captain Billy Dardis, returned from last season's victorious squad, and the Moscow silverware, which also sees Ireland pocket 20 Grand Prix Series points, will boost confidence levels heading into their HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series appearances as an invitational team in London (2-3 June) and Paris (9-10 June) and RWC Sevens 2018 in San Francisco, on 20-22 July.
Meanwhile, Germany bounced back from their heavy loss to the Irish on day one to qualify for the Cup quarter-finals as one of the best third-placed teams.
Showing the sort of form that helped them to a runners-up finish in the World Series qualifier in Hong Kong last month, Germany then went on to edge Russia 12-7 in the quarter-finals before seeing off Italy 22-7 in the semis to reach their first-ever Cup final in the present Grand Prix Series format.
A converted try apiece for Kennedy and Conroy eased Ireland into a 14-0 half-time lead in the tournament’s showpiece match. However, the deficit was halved when a penalty try was awarded to Germany after John O’Donnell deliberately knocked the ball out of play, just ahead of a German player, to prevent what looked like a certain score.
O’Donnell was also yellow-carded for the offence, but the Irish did not let the setback derail them and they went on to score twice more, through Kennedy and Dardis, and finish the tournament in style.
Earlier, Italy claimed the bronze medal following a 14-5 victory over France. Defending series champions Russia had to settle for fifth place, leaving them eight points in arrears of Ireland heading into the second round of the series in Marcoussis, France, on 30 June-1 July.