Connacht battled their way through to the quarter-finals of the Limerick World Club Se7ens and captain Shane Layden is convinced their fighting spirit could see them go all the way on Saturday
Connacht beat Ulster 36-10 in their opener at Thomond Park on Friday and although a 19-10 loss to Buenos Aires followed, the men from Galway responded to beat South African side Golden Lions 21-19 – finishing second in Pool C and sealing a quarter-final place.
Layden notched a first-half try double in that contest but it was only a last-gasp missed conversion after the Connacht defence forced Golden Lions to score in the corner as opposed to under the posts that sealed the victory.
And Layden, who left the Connacht XVs set-up in May to focus on 7s with Ireland, insists they shouldn’t be underestimated on Saturday.
“We are delighted to be in the mix,” said the 22-year-old. “We’ll set our goals for that, we’re seeded fifth so we’ll take whatever comes.
“We have a young squad but a bit of experience as well. It’s massive to playing in a quarter-final.
“It was a superb effort from the guys, one of the Golden Lions last plays, they scored in the corner and the chase back from the lads was phenomenal to keep them in the corner.”
While Buenos Aires and Golden Lions also made the Cup quarter-finals from Pool C, this year’s Limerick World Club Se7ens marks the first time all four Irish provinces have been involved in the competition.
And with Munster also progressing through to Saturday’s Cup competition by virtue of being one of the best third-placed sides in the pool stages, it promises to a fantastic atmosphere as the destination of the trophy is decided.
The hosts started slowly in Pool B losing 19-17 to group winners Canadian Maples but drew 19-19 with fellow qualifiers Samurai before holding off San Francisco Golden Gate 28-22.
And Steve McMahon is confident he and his teammates are coming to the boil are the right time.
“It certainly seemed like we were making it hard for ourselves,” explained the winger. “But most of the guys here, this was our first chance of playing 7s.
“We come from a union background, it’s a bit faster than what we’re used to. We took a bit of time to get up to speed in our first game but we were better in the second and we finished off nicely in the third.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to close out games a bit better in the knock-outs.”
Last year’s champions Daveta looked imperious as they won all three games in Pool A, including a 17-5 win over the impressive New York, who also qualified.
Leinster won their final game of the day 19-17 over Stade Francais but their third-placed finish was only good enough to reach the Shield along with Stade, winless Ulster and San Francisco.
In their opening two games, the Leinstermen suffered 45-7 and 31-14 defeats to Daveta and New York respectively before finishing on a high.
Ulster meanwhile followed up their defeat to Connacht with a 28-12 loss at the hands of Golden Lions before their second-half comeback fell short against Buenos Aires, losing 24-19.