Here we are in February 2021, wrapping up the Rugby Europe Championship 2020. It’s surreal to think about what has happened in the world since the last round was played but let’s take a look at the final round of the often dubbed ‘Six Nations B’.
Belgium vs Romania
As mentioned last week, the game to decide who would face The Netherlands in the relegation play-off was sadly canceled. Belgium was forbidden from traveling to Romania and this left Rugby Europe in a tight spot. The harsh result is that Romania was awarded a 28-0 win – and bonus point – and Belgium will now finish bottom of their group.
Rugby Europe has stated Belgium must host the game before June 13, or they will be relegated. This is another Covid related outcome that helps no one. Belgium is at risk of relegation, Romania gets no warm-up before Rugby Union World Cup qualification period starts and even The Netherlands will be playing catch up on their calendar regardless of the result.
Spain vs Portugal
A game that would’ve been a well-attended spectacle for 2nd place is now a vital last chance tune-up for two teams beginning their Rugby Union World Cup qualifying campaign. In another blow, the game was also removed from live coverage by the Spanish National Broadcaster, only showing a replay several hours later. It is another sign of how vital qualifying for France will be for Spanish Rugby Union.
It was a slow start for both if truth be told, with the tedious amount of reset scrums reminding us why we are grateful that Rugby League has binned them off. A missed penalty from João Lima should have put Portugal ahead in the 5th minute but it was Spain who took the lead with an 18th-minute penalty from Bautista Guemes. However, it would be Portugal’s first over the try line. Having worked through the phases, Rodrigo Marta broke through some weak tackles to punch Portugal into a 5-3 lead. Despite this, Spain would take a 6-5 lead into the break, and Portugal was reduced to 14 men on the 39th minute, with repeated infringing near the try line meaning they would have to weather the early second-half storm.
They were unable to do so, with Spain making the extra man count by scoring two tries in the opening ten minutes of the second half. The first was an attritional grind from the forwards before a soft inside pass sprang Bautista Guemes for the try. The second came just four minutes later, with a lovely offload from Manuel Ordas allowing Julen Goia to put it under the sticks. The sin bin killed Portugal in this game and Spain would come home eventual 25-11 winners.
Bar the yellow, Portugal will be happy with the runout and it is a credible return for their first year back at the second tier of European Rugby. Spain claiming back to back runners up places will have them believing if they can match the standard they have set themselves over the last two years, they will be heading to the Rugby Union World Cup 2023.
— España Rugby (@ferugby) February 7, 2021
Georgia vs Russia
As sure as night follows day, Georgia will sweep the Rugby Europe Championship. It was no different this time, Georgia winning 16-7 in a somewhat sluggish performance. Whilst Italy has been whitewashed in the Six Nations for the last five years, it is a third straight Georgian Grand Slam and Georgia are undefeated in this competition since 19th March 2017. Not to say there weren’t bright spots for Russia, with them keeping Georgia scoreless at half-time. Russia will be looking to the upcoming Rugby Europe Championship 2021 with the confidence they can do enough to put themselves in the race to France.
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) February 7, 2021
All ‘Eyes on the Prize’ in the race to France 2023
The phony war of the Rugby Europe Championship 2020 is over. These nations have a brief break before it all kicks off again on March 6-7. A weekend that will not feature the Six Nations, so, those of you looking for an International Union fix will have no excuse but to head over to Rugby Europe and get watching.
Round One: Portugal vs Georgia | Russia vs Romania
Each match is also one where supporters still have their ‘eyes on the Prize’ of qualification to the next Rugby World Cup. Hosted by France in 2023, there are still vital qualification games to be played this year, as well as the last round of repechage matches in 2022. That will finalize the teams, before the big event in September 2023.
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