Russia’s women warmed up for the World Rugby Olympic Repechage tournament in a fortnight’s time by winning the first leg of the Rugby Europe Sevens Championship, while Spain managed to edge out defending champions Germany 19-17 in a tense final of the men’s competition.
Fielding a strong team likely to be very similar to the one that will attempt to secure one of the two Olympics qualifying places in Monaco, Russia marched into the final phase of the competition with convincing wins against Romania (41-0), Germany (39-0), Wales (47-5) and Portugal (49-0).
The reigning European champions were then joined by the two other leading teams from the first two phases of pool play, Spain and Belgium.
Having both beaten Belgium, Russia and Spain faced each other in the final match of the tournament with the destiny of the trophy resting on the outcome. Russia came through their toughest test to date to win 24-5 and will look to secure the overall title on home soil in three week’s time.
Los Leones triumphant
Spain’s men put aside the disappointment of missing out on the Olympics by winning all six of their games in Lisbon, culminating in a nail-biting final game against Germany.
Los Leones Sevens were never behind in the match but Germany refused to be beaten and would have forced the game into sudden death extra-time had Phil Szczesny’s conversion of Sam Rainger’s late try gone through the posts instead of striking an upright.
“The boys are of course disappointed now, even though they showed such a tremendous performance against a World Series team like Spain,” said Germany men’s sevens head coach Damian McGrath. “We were good enough to beat them and, in the end, we were unlucky with the shot from the post. But all in all, it was a very good weekend for us.”
The final was typical of a hugely competitive tournament in which half of the 20 games played ended with single-figure points margins between the teams. Russia were involved in their fair share of nail-biters, including a 19-14 defeat to Spain in the pool stages. But they came out on the right side of another tight encounter in the third place play-off against Portugal, winning 14-12.
The Rugby Europe Sevens Championship now moves on to Moscow for the second and final tournament. The women’s competition takes place on 25-26 June, with the men’s on 26-27 June.
Photo credit: Luis Cabelo