Romania lead the race to secure the Europe 1 qualfication place for Rugby World Cup 2019, but Germany are hot on their heels after both sides recorded their second wins in the Rugby Europe Championship 2017 over the weekend.
Results from the 2017 and 2018 Rugby Europe Championship count towards RWC 2019 qualification, with the best-placed side other than Georgia taking the direct route to Japan.
The Oaks are currently sitting in pole position behind table-topping Georgia, on 10 points, having picked up all five points from their 30-10 victory against Russia in Sochi.
Coming up against an off-key Russian team, Romania did not have to play anywhere near their best to avenge the defeat they suffered in Krasnodar the last time they paid their rivals a visit.
Converted tries from Ionel Badiu and Madalin Lemnaru handed Romania a 14-0 half-time advantage before two penalties from scrum-half Valentin Calafeteanu and a try from replacement forward Valentin Poparlan put the game out of sight.
Russia finally muscled their way over for a try in the dying seconds, adding to an earlier Yury Kushnarev penalty, but replacement back Jody Rose ensured Romania had the final say when he intercepted a loose pass and cruised home from 40 metres out.
As a result of picking up 1.25 rating points, Romania cement 16th place in the World Rugby Rankings while also closing the gap on the side immediately above them, Samoa, to just 2.32 points. Russia, though, have fallen one place to 19th with defeat, swapping places with Namibia.
After racing into a three-try lead shortly after half-time, Germany looked on course to pocket a bonus-point win against Belgium in front of more than 4,000 spectators in Offenbach, near Frankfurt.
However, the newly-promoted Black Devils showed their competitive spirit and no little skill to work their way back into the match and earn a losing bonus point courtesy of Alan Williams’ last-minute penalty kick.
Germany had to settle for four match points, to leave them third in the table, while Belgium are bottom with two points.
FOR A FULL REPORT ON GERMANY’S 34-29 WIN CLICK HERE >>
Following Canada’s shock defeat to Brazil in the Americas Rugby Championship, Germany move up a place to 22nd in the rankings – equalling their highest ever position – with an improved rating of 60.97 points. Despite losing 20-10 at home to Georgia, Spain also benefit from Canada's setback to climb one place to 21st.
Los Leones were the last team to beat the Lelos at this level some five years ago, and the 7,200-strong crowd inside the Estadio Municipal De Medina Del Campo dreamt that history might be repeating itself when their side led 10-3 at the break.
After the opposing full-backs, Brad Linklater and Merab Kvirikashvili, exchanged penalties the only other points of the half came when flanker Kalokalo Gavidi crossed for the opening try on 26 minutes and Linklater tagged on the extra two points.
Georgia came out firing at the start of the second half, though, and only a brilliant last-ditch tackle prevented Lelos hooker Shalva Mamukashvili finishing off a well-executed blindside move.
However, they did not have to wait long before finding a way over the line, flanker Giorgi Tkhilaishvili touching down after 49 minutes for a try which Kvirikashvili turned into seven points with the conversion.
The scores stayed locked at 10-10 until the 62nd minute when winger Soso Matiashvili celebrated his test debut with a try. Kvirikashvili converted and added a late penalty to close off the scoring.
Georgia put their 27-game unbeaten run on the line against Russia next Sunday, while 24 hours earlier Belgium are at home to Romania and Germany’s next assignment comes against Spain in Cologne.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands' unbeaten start in the second-tier Rugby Europe Trophy came to an end against Portugal in Amsterdam. Second-row Fernando Almeida scored a try in each half as Os Lobos overturned a 10-5 half-time deficit to win 26-10.
Portugal gain 1.59 points but remain in 25th place in the rankings, while the Dutch drop two places to 31st as a consequence of their defeat and Brazil's win.
Click HERE Join the Front Row to be the first to receive all the latest news and ticketing updates for Rugby World Cup 2019.
RWC 2019 Tickets
RWC 2019 Official Ticketing site NOW LIVE
Fans can now register interest to apply for Rugby World Cup 2019 tickets