Georgia absolutely hammered Russia in the European Nations Cup title decider, running out easy winners.
Georgia 36 – 8 Russia
Russia started brightly, and took an early 5-3 lead after fullback Igor Klyuchnikov burst over the line. But that was the only sniff of victory that Georgia were going to allow Russia. The well drilled Georgian forwards simply overpowered their Russian counterparts, and between the 21st and 32nd minutes scored the three ties that killed the tie and, with it, Russia’s hopes of the title. Two more second half tries
Both teams had already qualified for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, but the result means that Georgia will play against Scotland, England and Argentina in Pool B, while Russia will face Australia, Ireland, Italy and – most intriguingly – the United States in Pool C. On the basis of this performance against Russia, it looks like Georgia will certainly be a handful in next year’s World Cup.
Portugal 9 – 20 Romania
This week’s biggest match though, was oddly not the title decider – it was the Romania vs Portugal matchup, with the winner almost certain of a playoff spot for the World Cup. Romania won comfortably and, although they’re still one point behind Portugal in the table, they have one game still to play, against struggling Spain. All Romania need to do to leapfrog Portugal is avoid defeat against Spain, which realistically is a match that they should easily win nine times out of ten.
Credit to Romania – they’ve been marked as a team on the decline for more than a decade now and, at the halfway point of this two-year tournament, had looked distinctly average, languishing in 4th/5th place.
But this year Romania have been the form team, tying with Russia, beating Georgia and, finally, beating Portugal this weekend. They certainly deserve a place in the Rugby World Cup Playoff, and if they can maintain their form, they’ll probably do well at the World Cup itself.
Harsh on Portugal though, a team who have, throughout the tournament looked like genuine contenders. All of their matches against Russia, Georgia and Romania have been incredibly tense affairs, with none (other than this weekend’s) being won or lost by more than six points. They’ll be gutted to not qualify for the World Cup and, had a few bounces of the ball gone their way instead of their opponents’, they could have been Champions this year.
In the third and final of this weekend’s matches, Spain beat Germany 21 – 17, an unsurprising result, but a scoreline that Germany, who have looked out of their depth at this level, will be pleased with.
For the stats fans among you, here’s the tournament’s final table (well, almost final table – Romania still have to play bottom team Germany in a match that’s been postponed, but that should be a mere formality).[table id=5 /]
That’s it for Russia’s European Nations Cup / Rugby World Cup qualification campaign. The Russian national rugby team will next be in action in June, when they’ll play in the Churchill Cup for the first time, facing the England Saxons (England’s B team) and the United States (a matchup which promises to be an intriguing preview of their matchup in next year’s World Cup).
Russia’s rugby sevens team also have a hectic schedule ahead of them, starting with the Hong Kong sevens, this weekend.