Ireland secured a brilliant Rugby 7s World Cup third place finish after reacting to their narrow semi-final loss to New Zealand with a superb 19-14 win over Australia in Cape Town.

The side had last reached the semi-final stage in 1993 when they lost out to Australia in Scotland, although there was no third-placed play-off.

That was open to them this time around and they had a moment of inspiration from Terry Kennedy to thank for the win.

With the sides tied at 14-14, Kennedy instinctively kicked a bad pass to his left to allow Ireland into space, Harry McNulty eventually touching down in the corner for the winning score.

It was Australia who took the lead, Nathan Lawson going over and Stuart Dunbar nailing the conversion to leave them 7-0 ahead just before the break.

Ireland's response was quick though, Sean Cribbin scoring in the last play of the half with Billy Dardis ensuring the extras.

Australia again took the lead, Dunbar converting after Corey Toole had left the Irish defence in his wake with a fine run to touch down, but Ireland again responded with Kennedy on the scoreboard and Mark Roche converting.

That set up a grandstand finish and it was Ireland who came out on top with McNulty's try standing after a TMO check to see if he had remained in play.

That sparked wild celebrations for the side after a fantastic showing.

Earlier on Sunday, Ireland were edged out by New Zealand in the semi-final, going down 17-10 in a thrilling encounter.

Coming into the game on the back off a stunning quarter-final 24-14 victory over tournament hosts South Africa, James Topping's side once again played the role of the underdogs, but got off to a poor start.

With just over 30 seconds on the clock, two Irish players got sucked towards Tone Ng Shiu in the centre and he off-loaded brilliantly to Ngarohi McGarvey-Black on the inside, allowing him to go over unchallenged in the corner.

Ngarohi McGarvey-Black scored three tries for New Zealand

The conversion kick from Sam Dickson drifted just wide.

The All Blacks were fired up and a minute later McGarvey-Black doubled his side's lead with a great piece of improvisation play, taking the ball off the ground from a counter-ruck and again, sprinting clear of the Irish chasers to touch down. Again, Dickson was unable to add the extras.

Ireland were rocking but to their credit managed to steady the ship and began to ask some questions of their own. They were handed a life-line just before the end of the first half when Moses Leo was sent to the sin-bin for a taking out Terry Kennedy off the ball.

With seven against six, Ireland knew that they had to reduce the deficit and set about doing that with the clock in the red.

Patiently passing in front of an increasingly desperate New Zealand defence, Ireland went through the phases and dragged the All Blacks out of position before eventually working a three on one of the right flank, allowing Jack Kelly to touch down in the corner.

Mark Roche stepped up for the conversion but was desperately unlucky as the ball hit the woodwork, bouncing back out.

With Leo still in the sin-bin at the start of the second-half, Ireland knew they needed to start strongly and they did just that.

From a flat, low kick-off, McNulty was able to get in among the two New Zealand catchers and forced them into an error with the ball bouncing perfectly for Andrew Smith who had nothing but empty space between him and the try-line. He went over to level the scores, but again the was no joy with the conversion from Roche.

With the scores level at 10-10, New Zealand were restored to their full complement and they quickly began to turn the screw.

The experience and tactical nous of the All Blacks was telling and Ireland were forced further and further back with Leo going within inches of their third try before a saving tackle from Bryan Mollen denied him on the line.

New Zealand weren’t to be denied however and with the Irish defence increasingly creaking, McGarvey-Black found a slight gap in the centre and that was all he needed to go over for his third try and to send the All-Blacks to the World Cup final. This time Kurt Baker's conversion was good and there was no way back for Ireland.

With the clock in the red, Ireland had one last chance to rustle up an equaliser but they lost possession in a ruck and the New Zealanders gratefully ran it out of play, booking their spot in the final and sending the gallant Irish side into the third place playoff against Australia.