Georgia ran out comfortable winners in this weekend’s big European Nations Cup clash to top the table at the end of season break.
Russia 9:15 Georgia
Visiting Russia needing a win to secure a Grand Slam of five victories out of five in this season’s tournament, Georgia scored two tries en route to a 16:9 victory over their hosts.
The game was fairly even throughout the first half – both sides traded penalties to leave the score at 3:3 at the break. But two Georgian tries in the second half, versus two Russian penalties was the difference between the sides.
The match was the first between the two countries played on Russian soil since their brief 2008 war and, as expected, it was a tense affair. Not just on the pitch, where at one point there was a mass brawl, but off the pitch as well. According to reports in the Georgian press, some of the Georgian players had trouble getting to the match, and Russian TV took a last minute decision not to provide Georgian TV companies with a live feed of the match.
Although there were problems with the live feed, there were fortunately cameras at the match, and you can view a video of the match highlights here:
Portugal 46 − 24 Ukraine and Romania 64 − 8 Spain
No surprises in the other two matches, as Portugal and Romania both recorded fairly easy wins.
Portugal will probably be a bit disappointed that they weren’t able to put more points past Ukraine, but they scored the tries they needed to secure a bonus point.
Romania also scored a bonus point as they romped to an unexpectedly easy win over Spain, who chose to rest many of their best players ahead of the forthcoming Hong Kong Sevens tournament. A mistake in my opinion, as this leaves their team second from bottom in the table, instead of in the second position that a victory would have secured.
European Nations Cup Table
Georgia have five wins out of five, and top the table by a huge margin. They’ve clearly been the best team this season, and it’ll be a huge shock if their performances next season don’t secure them the title in this two-season tournament.
November’s Rugby World Cup awaits for Georgia, Russia and Romania. But before then, each of the teams will participate in summer warm up tournaments.
IRB Nations Cup 2011
Georgia and Romania, plus Portugal who so nearly qualified for the World Cup, will play in the IRB Nations Cup 2011, where they’ll take on the South African Kings, the Argentina Jaguars, and fellow World Cup minnows Namibia.
Matches will be played in Bucharest on the 10th, 15th and 19th June.
Churchill Cup 2011
Russia will again play in the Churchill Cup. This year’s Cup will be divided into two pools of three teams. Russia will take on Canada and Italy A in Pool B, while England Saxons, Tonga and the United States will compete in Pool A.
An odd feature of this tournament is that every team will get to play in a ‘final’ match, against their compatriots in the opposite pool. So, the winners of each pool will meet in the Cup Final, the runners up in each pool will meet in theta Plate Final, and the wooden spoon rivals will meet in the Bowl final.
If the tournament goes to form, then Russia and the USA are likely to finish last in their pools, which could set up an intriguing clash between the two ahead of the hotly anticipated World Cup clash.
2011 Churchill Cup matches will all be played in England on June 4th, 8th, 12th and 18th.
We’ll bring you updates from each tournament, as well as coverage of the Rugby World Cup, so keep an eye out for our coverage.