Lasha Malaguradze “honoured” to become latest Georgian centurion
The Lelos centre reached 100 caps for his country in the 75-12 win over Germany at the weekend.
Georgia have closed to within 1.16 points of a historic place in the world’s top 10 after successfully defending their Rugby Europe Championship title with a 38-11 victory in Sunday’s final against injury-depleted Portugal.
The Lelos were pushed hard by Os Lobos, one of their Pool C opponents at Rugby World Cup 2023, and the result was still in the balance with half an hour to go. However, the strength and experience of Georgia told in the closing stages and a late flurry of tries put the seal on another triumphant campaign.
Georgia have been champions for the last six years, ever since reclaiming the trophy back from Romania, and are now unbeaten in 29 matches in the competition.
And with their 100th win in the competition, Georgia have moved above Samoa in the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini and are now up to 11th, a position they last held at the end of September 2019.
The final at the Estadio Nuevo Vivero in the Spanish border city of Badajoz followed the bronze medal match between Romania and Spain. That game ended in disappointment for the home fans as Romania edged a pulsating encounter 31-25 thanks to two late penalties from Vladut Popa.
The result sees the sides exchange places in the rankings with Romania up one to 19th and Los Leones down to 20th.
The fifth and seventh-place rankings finals took place at the National Rugby Centre in Amsterdam and, this time, the home fans were able to celebrate a victory and a piece of history.
The Netherlands defeated Germany 50-28 to end up in fifth place overall, their highest finish ever in the Rugby Europe Championship. It was a perfect way for their most-capped player, prop Hugo Langelaan, to bow out in what was his final appearance in an orange jersey.
If not their biggest win over Germany (the record margin is still 30 points), it was easily the Netherlands’ highest score in the fixture. There was also a positive knock-on effect in terms of the rankings with the Dutch moving above Brazil into 26th place, while the defeat cost Germany two places. They are now 32nd.
Belgium recorded their first win under new head coach Mike Ford after turning the tables on Poland, who had defeated them in the pool stage.
The Black Devils defeated Poland 18-17 in a tense seventh-place play-off but the Netherlands’ subsequent victory denied them the chance to move up the rankings. They remain in 29th place but with an improved rating of 54.58 points. Poland slip back one place to 34th.
The biggest fallers of the weekend were Sweden. A 38-15 defeat to Ukraine in Split in the Rugby Europe Trophy saw them drop six places to 47th. Ukraine picked up 1.40 rating points to consolidate their position in 36th.
In the Six Nations, there was much drama on the final weekend as you’d expect but home wins for Grand Slam winners Ireland, Scotland and France, meant the top end of the rankings was unaffected.
photo credit: Walter Degirolmo