Bulgaria defied their lowly World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini ranking to get their Rugby Europe Conference 1 South campaign off to a winning start.

Smilko Debrenliev converted tries from Ilia Dimitrov and Kristiyan Pavlov in addition to three earlier penalties in a 23-14 win against hosts Malta.

It was a case of third time lucky for the Bulgarians as they had lost to Malta, a team ranked 24 places higher than them before kick-off, in their two previous encounters.

The victory has led to a four-place gain in the rankings for Bulgaria, who started the weekend in 65th but finish it in 61st.

Malta drop seven places and now find themselves in 48th.

In Conference 2 North, Finland defeated the higher-ranked Denmark 31-6 in Helsinki.

With Finland climbing five places to a new high of 78th, there is now just a fraction over half a point between the teams.

Denmark had gone into the match ranked 12 places higher and nearly four points better off.

Serbia’s 23-6 win away to Turkey in Conference 2 South did not count towards the rankings as only matches between two full member unions of World Rugby are eligible.

Photo: Christine Borg