If there was a week to watch Rugby Europe, this was it. Whilst Wales were walking over Italy, Rugby Europe Week Two results burst into life, with both games going down to the final throw and kick of the ball.
As well, with Rugby Union World Cup Qualification on the line, the tension was only heightened.
Rugby Europe Week Two results
Portugal vs Romania
Before it kicked off, Last Word on Rugby had tipped Portugal to be the dark horse of the Championship, and the last two weeks, they’ve been so close to making that happen. The final kick of the game, that was all that separated Portugal from a statement win. 11 points up with 16 left to play, Portugal will be kicking themselves they let this one slip away. The fact Portugal are disappointed to have lost to serial-Rugby World Cup qualifiers Romania; in a Rugby World Cup qualification season, shows how far they have come.
On the plus side, a losing bonus point helps but, Portugal has a week to lick their wounds before a winnable game versus Spain.
For Romania, it’s a huge victory. Yes, they were supposed to win and only snuck it in the end but after last week’s loss to Russia, a defeat here could have been the end of their Rugby World Cup qualification campaign before it even began. The last two weeks show Romania has many questions to answer but, they go into next week with a massive emotional boost.
— Rugby Europe (@rugby_europe) March 13, 2021
Spain vs Georgia
If Portugal were a kick away from winning, then their Iberian cousins were one pass from an even more famous victory. Arriving for this game at Estadio Nacional Complutense, nothing was expected from Spain in terms of result. Putting in a decent shift before the crucial match against Romania was all that was required. At this level, Georgia does not lose. They certainly weren’t going to start now in a qualification year and less than three minutes in, Georgia crossed over with Spain failing to clear their lines. At this early stage, fans might have felt ‘ready for the inevitable’. Nobody had told Spain that script though.
Less than a minute later, they were in themselves. A quick offload in the tackle from Pierre Barthere and this time it was Georgia who failed to deal with it, allowing Brad Linklater to gleefully put it down. 7-7 with less than five on the clock.
A pattern established itself in the game, with Spain looking better with the ball in hand and seemed to be consistently looking to offload in contact. There was a sense from Spain that the more open the game was, the greater threat they posed to Georgia. Being very much a set piece team, Georgia’s numerous errors meant they were not able to dominate as they are accustomed to doing. All square at half time and there was a whisper that Spain could pull it off.
#XVdelLeón | 🦁 Ahí está el 1️⃣0️⃣ Bautista Güemes para poner el 🔟 – 🔟 en el marcador al descanso del @ferugby 🇪🇸 vs @GeorgianRugby 🇬🇪 #VamosLeones 💪 @deportegob @GENERALI_es @JomaSport @infisport @halconviajes pic.twitter.com/kXWLNR9Ziq
— España Rugby (@ferugby) March 14, 2021
It is definitely the leaguer in me but seeing the team who arguably looked to play more rugby, losing to a team that seems to focus on the areas of the game where there is as little play as possible, is quite jarring. However, much like the tedious soul-sapping re-setting of scrums, the clash of styles is part of Union. No better example of this could be found then a quick sequence starting in the 65th minute. Spain, winning a penalty from an open passage of play involving human tree trunk Thierry Feuteu, pulled it back to 16-18. Immediately off the restart, Spain made a crucial error and Georgia went straight into the corner, to the lineout and over the line.
Still, Spain was in the game right to the end and although they walked off in defeat, there’s an ocean of positives (not to mention a losing bonus point) to take into next week. For Georgia, no performance has been impressive but they look likely to do just enough to win every game and have one foot in France.
European rugby nations looking ahead to Week Three
Another weekend, another massive round of fixtures. Russia has had a week to recover from their huge win over Romania and take on Georgia at home. In the other fixture, it already feels like a must-win for both Romania and Spain. Historically, Spain has struggled in Romania but with a positive performance versus Georgia, a crop of players who will be available for the game and Romania looking vulnerable, this is the year to change that. If Spain wants that final ticket to France 2023, these are the games they have to win. The fear for Spain is that if Georgia beat Russia and knowing they have a walkover against The Netherlands or Belgium this summer, there is an opportunity for Romania to match or even beat Georgia in two weeks. It’s a testament to the Rugby Europe Championship this year that there has not been a single game that hasn’t been engaging or competitive.
— Rugby Europe (@rugby_europe) March 14, 2021
There’s obviously a lot we can say about this Rugby Europe Championship in relation to TV coverage and Portugal’s performances highlight the Rugby Europe meritocracy in contrast to the Six Nations cartel. While these fixtures each burst into life, enhancing the Rugby Europe Week Two entertainment, it is too often overshadowed by the marketing and traditions of the ‘home nations’ competition.
That’s a discussion to have post Six Nations but this weekend, do yourself a favour. Don’t bother with Scotland’s predictable walkover of Italy, watch Romania vs Spain instead!
“Main photo credit”
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