Romania and Georgia lived up to their billing as top seeds in the FIRA-AER European Group A Under 19 Championship in Poland by reaching the final, albeit by contrasting fortunes in their semi-finals on Wednesday.
The Georgians proved too strong for neighbours Russia, running out 37-0 winners with wing Yakhtang Kavtidze scoring a hat-trick of tries. The other semi-final ended in a 20-20 draw with Romania progressing on try count, having scored three to Portugal’s two.
Top seeds Romania had opened the scoring in the 14th minute with number 8 Vali Mototolea’s try in Sopot, but fifth seeds Portugal responded with two penalties from flanker Cristian Carreras to trail only 7-6 at half-time.
That deficit increased to 15-6 within 11 minutes of the restart with centre Richard Plopeanu scoring Romania’s second try, before Portugal hit back with tries for number 8 Emanuel Costa and replacement Manuel Raposo, both converted by Carreras, to lead 20-15.
There was, however, to be no second upset for Portugal after their defeat of fourth seeds Spain on the opening match day, as Romania scored a third – and ultimately decisive – try through wing Adrian Apostol.
World Trophy place the prize
Georgia, by contrast, had all but wrapped up the match by half-time with a 20-0 advantage over Russia thanks to two tries from Kavtidze, both converted by fly half Beka Tsiklauri who also kicked two penalties as their opponents had two players sin-binned.
Ten missed passed with no further score before the lively Kavtidze completed his hat-trick at a time when Georgia themselves were a man down due to a sin-binning. A penalty try and David Barbakadze’s score completed the victory.
Romania and Georgia are now only one more victory away from claiming the European title and the region’s place at the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2009, a competition both sides played in earlier this year in Chile.
Georgia came out on top when the sides met in the third place playoff at the inaugural IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy, running out 34-10 winners with Kavtidze a try-scorer that day in Santiago.
Four nations are already confirmed in the 2009 event with USA – relegated after finishing last in the IRB Junior World Championship – joined by other regional qualifiers Namibia (Africa), Cayman Islands (NAWIRA) and Papua New Guinea (Oceania).
The other three places will be filled by the Host Union, along with the final regional qualifiers from Asia and South America, both of which will be known by the end of November.
Scare for Spain
Meanwhile back in Poland, the matches also took place to determine the teams ranked fifth to eighth in this year’s European Group A Under 19 Championship with Spain edging Belgium 27-20 and the Netherlands beating their hosts 19-6.
Spain certainly left themselves with plenty to do after trailing 20-8 at half-time following Belgian tries from scrum half Julien Berger and wing Hadrien Radelet to cancel out Ander Ayala’s opening try for Spain.
The second half was a different story though with Ayala’s second try kick-starting the Spanish recovery with full back Sergi Aubanell kicking two penalties and a drop goal along with another from fly half Marc Puigbert’s boot.
Spain will now face the Netherlands in the fifth place playoff on Saturday after the Dutch battled past host nation Poland with first half tries from full back Sep Visser and centre Luuk de Geest setting them on the way to a 19-6 victory.
Fixtures and Results:
21 September 2008
Romania 28-9 Belgium
Georgia 62-7 Netherlands
Russia 22-11 Poland
Spain 8-24 Portugal
24 September 2008
SF: Romania 20-20 Portugal
SF: Georgia 37-0 Russia
Belgium 20-27 Spain
Netherlands 19-6 Poland
27 September 2008
7th place: Belgium v Poland
5th place: Spain v Netherlands
3rd place: Portugal v Russia
Final: Romania v Georgia
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