Rugby Europe Championship 2021: Vital Wins, shattering defeats
Another week of Rugby Europe Championship 2021 action and we’re another step closer to knowing who will be going to France 2023. Georgia took on Russia in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. Meanwhile, the rivalry between Romania and Spain added another chapter to the ongoing feud with Rugby World Cup Qualification advantage at stake.
Beating the Bear – Russia vs Georgia
The last time these two faced off in February, a pedestrian Georgia squeaked past Russia 16-7 in Tiblisi. This time, there was to be no potential upset as Georgia were in control right from the start. Two tries and two penalties in the first half put the game beyond the reach of Russia at halftime. For Russia, they can count themselves unlucky that they weren’t able to build any momentum from their huge win over Romania two weeks ago.
For Georgia, it was their most professional performance of the tournament, not giving Russia a sniff. Georgia’s victory came on the same day as Italy were collecting yet another Wooden Spoon having been pumped 52-12 by Scotland. With the Six Nations ending this weekend and the REC 2021 going on a break, next week will be the perfect time to examine the increasingly ludicrous closed shop. For now, the Georgians are strolling to another Rugby World Cup and the rest are desperately trying to catch them.
More photos here: https://t.co/NEeft7xLWU
📸 Mark Ilyin pic.twitter.com/aE4tbt7gGO
— Georgian Rugby (@GeorgianRugby) March 20, 2021
Same Old Story- Romania vs Spain
With Russia beating Romania in Week 1, this wasn’t 100% must-win for Spain but it felt pretty close. In Round 2, Romania snuck past Portugal to get their Rugby World Cup qualification up and running whilst Spain took Georgia the distance. Being able to call on some of their top-tier French-based players, combined with their showing against Georgia, gave Spain the belief they could beat Romania away in a Rugby Europe match for the first time.
If Spain were to win, they would be in the driving seat for the second automatic place to France. However, history repeated itself with Romania winning 22-16. It all looked to be going well for Spain with a quick try at the start of the second half. The free-flowing hands that appeared against Georgia were on show again and Spain looked in great shape. Then, the madness began.
First Spain would lose Manu Mora to the sin bin for a no-arms tackle on Florin Surugiu. To worsen the situation, Romania would gain another penalty to make it 12-13. Still, Spain were hanging on but then a few minutes later, Spain’s Fréderic Quercy was sent off. The referee saying a deliberate foul play with a knee to the face and Spain were down to 13 men. A try for Romania immediately followed and Spain fell behind, never to regain the lead. Spain would see a further two players head into the bin as their heads completely went. They beat themselves.
— Rugby Europe (@rugby_europe) March 20, 2021
The lack of discipline from Spain cost them this match and made a tough task already more difficult. Almost all of Spain’s wounds were self-inflicted and in the space of a week, they have gone from a fantastic morale-boosting performance to a crushing defeat in Romania. Incredibly, Spain still picked up a losing bonus point which, thanks to Russia beating Romania back in Week 1, keeps them alive.
Now, the fixture list that looked rough against Spain and kind for Romania and Georgia rolls into view. My fear last week that a Georgia win in Round 3 could have them putting their feet up for the final spring round is possible. Georgia know they will win their Round 5 match, are as good as in France and next’s weeks game will make no difference to them. Who are they against? Well as luck would have it, that would be Romania, who now have a great chance to put a stranglehold on second with a win against a Georgian team who need risk nothing.
Worse still, Spain will now travel to play a Portugal team who pushed Romania all the way in Round 2 and have had a week’s rest. What an extremely friendly fixture list Romania received from the Romanian-headed Rugby Europe… Spain has no time to feel sorry for themselves but they, like Romania two weeks ago, must grind out a win against Portugal and hope Georgia do them a favour. Anything less than a win and it looks curtains for automatic qualification to France 2023.
The Last Chance Saloon
We’ve reached the final round of the Rugby Europe Championship 2021. A shock win for Romania will have them punching their tickets for France. Should Georgia continue their sweep, then Russia and either Portugal or Spain will feel they are still alive. Whatever the outcome, this week will be a defining moment in the race to France 2023.
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