Georgia retained the Rugby Europe Championship trophy for the fourth year in a row after a 48-15 win over the Netherlands in front of an enthusiastic crowd in Telavi on Saturday.
In what was Georgia’s final game of the campaign and newly-promoted Netherland’s first, teenager Davit Niniashvili scored a hat-trick of tries as the Lelos completed yet another ‘Grand Slam’.
Georgia’s 20th consecutive win in the competition was not quite as straightforward as the scoreline looked, however, with the Netherlands showing real signs of promise in their first game at this level for 19 years.
Winger Jordy Hop finished off a brilliant try as the Netherlands held Georgia to 15-8 at half-time. But Georgia used their bench well in the second half and their forward dominance told with replacement props, Guram Gogichashvili and Gia Kharaishvili, dotting down approaching the hour mark.
Niniashvili, still only 18 years of age, then added two more tries to his first-half effort on either side of a second Netherlands try, scored by openside Wolf van Dijk.
With regional qualification for Rugby World Cup 2023 based on results from this year’s competition and those in 2022, Georgia are in the box seat to book their place in Pool C alongside South Africa, Wales, Fiji and the Final Qualifier Winner.
Georgia sit at the top of the Rugby Europe Championship 2021 table with an unassailable 15-point lead over Romania who will conclude their campaign when they take on the Netherlands later this year.
Georgia’s fourth bonus-point win out of five saw them finish the season on 24 points but without any added value to their World Rugby Men’s Ranking.
The Lelos stay in 12th place in the rankings on 73.73 points because no points were awarded to them for a victory against a side with a significantly lower rating (61.10 points and 24th place).
On Friday, the Lelos are due to take on South Africa for only the second time in history. The only other meeting with the reigning world champions was at Rugby World Cup 2003.
If Japan felt they were rusty going into their historic non-rankings match against the British and Irish Lions at Murrayfield, Paraguay’s absence from the test arena dated back even longer to August 2019.
Sadly for Los Yacarés, there was to be no fairytale return in São Jose dos Campos as hosts Brazil proved too strong in the first match of the Americas qualification process for Rugby World Cup 2023, winning 29-0.
Brazil relied on the boot of Moises Duque for all of their points up until the last quarter through three penalties and two drop goals.
The Paraguayan line was finally breached by Lucas Spago on 63 minutes before Felipe Sancery added a second try in the dying throes of the match.
With the victory, Brazil have confirmed their place in the Sudamerica Rugby 3 Naciones tournament, which serves as the next stage of RWC 2023 qualification, alongside Uruguay and the winner of next weekend’s match between Chile and Colombia.
The World Rugby Men's rankings are updated at 12:00 BST every Monday.