Romania edged a tight final with Georgia 31-28 to be crowned FIRA-AER European Group A Under 19 champions in Poland on Saturday, securing the region’s place at the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2009 in the process.
Both sides knew what was at stake, having played in the inaugural IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy in Chile earlier this year, both losing in the semi finals before Georgia bounced back the better to win their third place playoff 34-10.
Georgia and Romania had enjoyed contrasting semi finals to reach this title decider, the Georgians convincingly beating neighbours Russia 37-0 and Romania drawing 20-20 with Portugal, progressing on try count with three to their opponent’s two.
It was Georgia who took the lead in the final in the Polish city of Sopot with a third minute Yaktang Kavtidze penalty before the sides traded drop goals, the first try going Romania’s way through wing Ionut Puisoru to give his side a 10-6 lead after 23 minutes.
Georgia responded with a try of their own through centre Davit Grdzelishvili to once again take the lead, but it was Romania who went in leading 18-13 at half time thanks to a try from full back Marian Pirvu. Fly half Alin Georgescu missed the conversion, but made amends with another penalty.
That advantage soon grew to 28-13 with prop Petru Tamba scoring Romania’s third try of the final and Georgescu adding the conversion and his third penalty. Georgia came back, cutting the deficit to seven points with a try from replacement George Nozadze and Beka Tsikavri's penalty.
Five nations confirmed
Romania, though, were not to be denied the honour of calling themselves the European Under 19 champions of 2008 with Georgescu kicking another penalty to ease any nerves, even though Georgia had the final say with the game’s last try through their impressive full back Kavtidze.
Five nations are now confirmed for the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2009 in Romania (Europe), Namibia (Africa), Cayman Islands (NAWIRA), Papua New Guinea (Oceania) and USA, the side relegated from the IRB Junior World Championship 2008.
The other three places will be filled by the regional qualifiers from Asia and South America, tournaments which both take place in November, and the Host Union who will be announced next week.
The winner of the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy will be promoted to the IRB Junior World Championship in 2010, swapping places with the side who finishes bottom of the 16 teams in the 2009 tournament in Japan.
Battling for position
Meanwhile in the other classification matches in Poland, Russia overcome Portugal 32-29 in the third place playoff thanks to tries from number 8 Nikolai Serkov, second row Evgenii Dergachyov, centre Leonid Zuev and flanker Ivan Epifanov.
Portugal had trailed 20-10 at half time and went further behind with Zeuv's try 10 minutes after the break, but fought back to trail 25-22 with tries from centre Frederico Dias and replacement Bernardo Silveira.
Epifanov's try eased Russian nerves in the final few minutes by putting them more than a converted try ahead, but there was still time for one last try for Portugal wing Joao Ventosa to make the difference three points at the whistle.
In the fifth place playoff in Gdansk it was Spain who emerged the 22-7 winners, scoring all bar three of their points against the Netherlands in the first half with number 8 Gautier Guiboin and full back Sergi Aubanell among their try scorers.
Poland had scored the opening try of their seventh place playoff with Belgium, but there was to be no victory for the home crowd to savour as their side lost 27-5 with centre Bram Coupe and fly half Julien de Somer the Belgian try scorers.