A week on from the women's success, France men’s U18s have been crowned European sevens champions after toppling 2017 winners Ireland in the final.
In avenging last year’s loss to the Irish, France can now look forward to competing alongside their female counterparts at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Argentina – if the country’s National Olympic Committee chooses rugby sevens as their nominated team sport.
Played in warm and sunny conditions in the Lithuanian city of Panevezys, the pool stages of the Rugby Europe Men’s U18 Sevens Championship went as expected with all the top seeds – Ireland, France and Great Britain – and fifth seeds Spain advancing to the knockout stages as comfortable pool winners.
After big wins over Ukraine, Germany and Romania, France dispatched Georgia in similarly convincing style in the quarter-finals. In the other ties, Ireland edged Portugal 24-17, Spain beat Italy 32-7 and Germany eliminated Great Britain 21-10.
Both semi-finals were one-sided affairs with France running in seven tries to end Spain’s challenge 41-5, while Ireland saw off Germany 21-0.
After dominating the early stages of the final without any reward, Ireland finally broke the deadlock when they scored through Ben Watson.
Crucially, Ireland suffered a double setback soon after and the French were level by half-time, Joachim Trouabal taking advantage of the extra space created by Alex Kendellen’s sin-binning to score a converted try.
In the ninth minute replacement Calum Randle put France in front with their second converted try, but the Irish looked after possession from the restart to fashion a score for Hayden Hyde. It was still all to play for at 14-12 and under three minutes remaining.
However, France’s greater physicality and experience – they had nine survivors from their 2017 squad compared to Ireland’s one – ensured the Irish comeback was quickly stopped in its tracks.
Randle scored his second and Baptiste Germain again added the extras to push France’s lead out to 21-12. Tanii Vili then muscled his way over to make the result absolutely safe before Ireland had the consolation of an 80-metre solo try from John Maher.
Photo credit: Ray Vysniauskas/VSI Mes Medija