14-try Spain beat Sweden to win Rugby Europe Women’s Championship
Alba Vinuesa crossed the whitewash four times to help confirm a 10th Women’s Championship title for Las Leonas with victory against Sweden in Villajoyoso.
It’s semi-final weekend in the Rugby Europe Championship with the new format of the competition delivering four mouth-watering ties.
Iberian rivals Portugal and Spain face each other on Saturday in the first of the semi-finals at the Estádio do Restelo in Lisbon before defending champions Georgia take on Romania at the Avchala Stadium in Tbilisi the following day.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands take on border rivals and Poland play Germany as part of the process to determine the best of the rest.
Georgia booked their place in the semi-finals after three consecutive bonus-point wins saw them top Pool A ahead of Spain.
Portugal also qualified with a perfect record of 15 points from 15 with the 38-20 victory over Romania a fortnight ago seeing them top Pool B with the Oaks coming second.
🏆🇪🇺 Big weekend incoming..— Rugby Europe (@rugby_europe) February 27, 2023
Here are the semi-finals match ups as four teams compete for a place in the first ever Rugby Europe Championship Grand Final.
🇵🇹 v 🇪🇸 (4 March, 6pm KO CET)
🇬🇪 v 🇷🇴 (5 March, 1pm CET)
🎟️ https://t.co/zDuoJIvzU7 pic.twitter.com/Kvi0Cpyb0a
As five-time defending champions, Georgia are unbeaten in 25 matches in the Rugby Europe Championship and have not lost at home in the competition for an incredible 47 matches, dating back to a 19-14 defeat to Portugal in February 2004.
If Romania manage to end that proud record they will be one win away from lifting their first Rugby Europe Championship title since 2017.
The Oaks enjoyed an 8-7 title-clinching win over Georgia that year, which was also the last time the Lelos were beaten at this level.
While Georgia cannot climb any higher in the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini because their rating is significantly better than Romania’s, the Oaks can improve their position by three to four places in victory depending on the margin and the result of the game in Lisbon.
Georgia will fall below Italy and Fiji if they come off second best in the semi-final between eastern Europe’s two leading nations.
With 4.26 points between themselves and Tonga, the team directly above them, Portugal cannot move up the rankings this weekend as a maximum of just under a point is on offer for a win.
But a fourth straight victory this year would take them a step closer to their first title in two decades and continue to strengthen the feel-good factor in Portuguese rugby following Os Lobos’ qualification for Rugby World Cup 2023.
Spain will have the higher rating of the two Iberian nations and therefore move above Os Lobos into 16th place if they come away from Lisbon victorious.
Los Leones have won five of the last seven meetings with one draw in that sequence of results, but Portugal have tended to have had the upper hand when at home.
Both teams could fall as low as 20th depending on the scoreline and results elsewhere.
Meanwhile, the other four competing teams are involved in the semi-finals for the fifth to eighth place play-offs.
The Netherlands and Belgium have the honour of kicking off what should be a brilliant weekend of rugby and with just one place and two hundredths of a point between the Lowlands neighbours, it should be a close-run contest in Amsterdam.
The visitors have the marginal advantage in the rankings but it was the Dutch who were victorious last time out, clinching promotion to the Championship and relegating Belgium to the Rugby Europe Trophy with a dramatic last-gasp 23-21 win in Waterloo in May 2021.
The Netherlands need to win again to become the higher-ranked of the two teams with 26th place possible. While any form of victory against the Netherlands will be enough to lift Belgium above Brazil and into 26th place.
The Netherlands could fall outside of the world’s top 30 depending on the manner of defeat and the result of the game between Poland and Germany.
In the final match of the weekend in Gdynia, Poland will move up one place to 28th if they beat Germany in the first-ever meeting of the teams at this level.
A rise of six places to 28th is possible for Germany if they go to Poland and win by more than 15 points – which they managed to do there in 2019 – and the Netherlands are also beaten.
In the event of such a heavy defeat, Poland will fall to 34th.