With all three Six Nations matches going according to the form book and producing wins for the higher-ranked sides, the biggest movers from the weekend's fixture list came from the Rugby Europe Championship and the Rugby Europe Trophy.
Having sunk to an all-time low of 20th, Romania bounced back to beat Rugby World Cup 2019 qualifiers Russia 22-20 on a fine and sunny day in Botosani. The Oaks' narrow victory was worth a fraction under eight-tenths of a point which was enough to lift them above their beaten opponents and also Spain, despite Los Leones' comfortable home win against Belgium, and into 18th place.
Romania led 16-5 at the end of a first half in which Russia had two players sin-binned, a penalty try and three penalties from the boot of Florin Vlacu giving them their 11-point cushion after Russian captain and full-back Vasily Artemyev had touched down for the visitors in the ninth minute.
Hooker Stanislav Selski pulled another five points back with Russia's second try shortly after the restart and number eight Nikita Vavilin added another but not before Vlaicu's replacement, Ionel Melinte, had slotted a penalty for the hosts.
A second Melinte penalty put Romania 22-15 up but Tagir Gadzhiev's third try in as many matches in the final minute gave Ramil Gaisin a last-gasp opportunity to snatch a draw with the conversion but his attempt went wide of the posts.
Meanwhile, Spain picked up just over two-tenths of a point for beating Belgium 47-9 to remain in 19th place. Full-back Brad Linklater converted six of Spain's seven tries, including one by himself at the end of the first half, against a Belgium side that could only muster three penalties from the boot of outside-centre Louis de Moffarts.
The Black Devils' place in Europe's second-tier tournament next season is still not certain as the cushion between themselves and bottom-of-the-table Germany is still only three points. Both teams are at home next week with Belgium entertaining Romania and Germany up against Spain.
Brazil on the up again
With 0.21 of a point lost, Belgium slip down the rankings by two places with Portugal and Brazil, now up to an all-time high of 24th, the sides to profit. Germany stay in 29th place after losing 52-3 to champions-elect Georgia. The Lelos have retained their Rugby Europe Championship title after they increased their lead over rivals Spain to five points going into their final fixture away to Russia.
While Brazil would have loved to have achieved the milestone through victory, Uruguay proved too strong for them in the final round of the Americas Rugby Championship 2019, Los Teros securing second place behind the Argentina XV with an entertaining 42-20 victory in Montevideo. The other match to count towards the rankings ended in a nervy 30-25 victory for the USA at home to Canada. Neither team's rating or position was affected by the result.
Unlike Brazil, Portugal's climb up the rankings was accompanied by a win, 18-5 away to the Netherlands in the Rugby Europe Trophy. Not only do Os Lobos overtake the Dutch in climbing to 23rd place in the rankings but they also topple them from the summit of the Trophy table. Both sides have nine points but Portugal have a superior points difference as well as a match in hand.
In a cagey encounter, the only difference between the sides for the first 65 minutes was six points from the boot of Portugal fly-half Jorge Abecasis. Rodrigo Marta finally broke the deadlock as play opened up in the final quarter before replacement Martim Cardoso followed him over the whitewash to seal the win with two minutes remaining. Kieran Hogg grabbed a late consolation for the home side.
Further down the rankings, Bermuda matched Portugal's four-place rise in moving from 73rd to 69th, on the back of a 43-14 win in the Rugby Americas North Championship play-off against Jamaica.
In the Six Nations, only Wales, of the top 10 teams, gained any points. Having beaten Scotland 18-11 at Murrayfield, Warren Gatland's Grand Slam hopefuls picked up 0.43 of a point. They stay third behind Ireland, who saw off France 26-14 in Dublin, while England remain in fourth after a comfortable 57-14 win over Italy at Twickenham.
Photo credit: Daniel Nechita
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