Two of the brightest stars of Ireland’s recent emergence, Jordan Conroy and Terry Kennedy proved a partnership too prolific for defences to handle at the Olympic Repechage tournament.
Conroy and Kennedy combined for 20 tries in Monaco, including three of the four scored in the final defeat of France in Monaco, which confirmed Ireland’s passage to a first Games.
The almost telepathic understanding that the pair share on the rugby pitch was best highlighted in the build-up to Ireland’s second try against Samoa on Sunday.
Kneeling on the floor having been tackled, and looking across the pitch to the left wing, Kennedy launched a no-look pass behind his back which found Conroy in acres of space on the right touchline.
As he cantered over the line and touched down a pivotal try in the 21-7 win, Conroy could not conceal his gratitude, or his awe, at what his team-mate had just done.
“When you spend every day together — like every year, 24/7 — you just build up a chemistry… we might as well be twins!” Conroy said following the final.
“When they're marking me, he'll do the fancy footwork, little side-steps and it's really hard to defend against as well.
“I'll try and be modest, but I'd say we're an absolute nightmare duo.”
Kennedy added: “On the pitch, we both know where each other are constantly going to be, just from playing together so much and it makes such a difference.
“I know that if I give it to him in space, he'll get away and vice versa.”
Leaving everything on the pitch
However, that understanding and their willingness to think outside of the box did not always yield results at Stade Louis II.
"You cannot do that!"— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) June 20, 2021
Talk about an #ImpactMoment... The no-look, out-the-back-door pass from @IrishRugby's Terry Kennedy just has to be seen to be believed 😮@DHLRugby | #Rugby7s pic.twitter.com/P1GJCRixGC
At one point on Sunday, Kennedy spotted his team-mate in space on the opposite side of the pitch and launched a cross-field kick in his direction. However, Conroy was only able to volley the ball into touch.
“It was just the soccer skills letting me down. I used to play soccer, but it's just all rugby orientated now,” Conroy admitted.
“It was going to be 50-50 [if] it was going to work or not. It would have been pretty cool if I'd got it for the highlight reel.”
“I was giving out to him that he didn't catch it,” Kennedy interjected. “I thought he could have got it.”
Following an energy-sapping two days of action, Conroy admitted that the closing stages of Ireland’s 28-19 qualifier final defeat of France were tough.
Despite taking a first-minute lead when Kennedy crossed the whitewash, the Irish found themselves 12-7 behind at half-time and needed second-half tries from Conroy (two) and Harry McNulty to pull through and book their place at Tokyo 2020.
“Mental warfare, it was. In the second half, I just was going to leave everything on the pitch,” Conroy said.
“I just said, ‘Legs, you just keep going and keep going’. And, you know, it just worked and we were hungry for it.
“Leading up to it, we were so hungry for it. It was a once in a lifetime chance and we just had to leave everything out there.”
Conroy and Kennedy can now look forward to becoming Olympians when the men’s tournament kicks off in Tokyo on 26 July.
“It's incredible,” Kennedy said. “It's kind of something we didn't really think about.
“We were just focusing on this tournament but now, it's kind of starting to sink in now. We can't believe it.”
“I'm speechless at the moment but I can't believe we actually did it, all our work finally paid off and us and the lads couldn't be happier,” Conroy added.
“It's actually unreal. We're actually going to Japan — arigato! I watch a lot of anime so I'm brushing up on that.”