Black Lion warmed up for their first ever EPCR Challenge Cup match versus English side Gloucester by making it through to the Rugby Europe Super Cup final at the weekend.
The Georgian side have won the event in the last two years and are going for a hat-trick of titles, something that could be possible after Saturday’s impressive 41-0 last four win over Castilla Y Leon Iberians from Spain.
In the 2022 final, Black Lion met Tel-Aviv Heat from Israel and they will do so again after the latter won their semi-final 31-6 versus Romania Wolves on Saturday.
The date for the final is yet to be confirmed given Black Lion’s upcoming European commitments, but when it does get played it is sure to be a cracker.
In the Avchala Stadium in Tbilisi, Black Lion simply overpowered Iberians in their semi-final.
Wingers Akaki Tabutsadze and Alexander Todua both scored tries in the first half while Ilia Spanderashvili, the No.8, crossed for two of his own and stand-off Luke Matkava kicked seven points.
That made it 27-0 at the interval and in the second period converted tries came from Matkava and replacement hooker Beka Mamrikishvili to finish things at 41-0.
Levan Maisashvili, the Black Lion head coach, said: “We played some good rugby and this was a good build up for the European game against Gloucester.
“We are now looking forward to the Challenge Cup and will think about the Super Cup final when it comes.”
Iberians coach Brad Linklater said: “It was a lesson in physicality for us and at times we could not cope when they got on the front foot.
“The guys have gained good experience in this match and throughout the tournament and we still have one more game to go, so we’ll focus on that.”
The last match that Linklater mentions for the Iberians will be against Romanian Wolves in the National Rugby Center in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on December 16 (6.00pm local) for the bronze medal.
The Wolves will be in that one after their 31-6 semi-final loss to the Heat in the Hungary Rugby Center in Budapest.
Romanian Wolves were actually 6-3 up early on after their stand-off Luca Nichitean kicked two to one from opposite number Jordan Chait.
Hooker McMillan Muller, centre James Verity-Amm, No.8 Semi Kunatani and replacement Mheli Dlamini then scored tries for the Heat with Chait kicking well to make sure they got over the line.
Tel-Aviv Heat head coach Kevin Musikanth dedicated the win to George, the father of coaching staff member Demetri Catrakilis, who passed away recently.
“This match was dedicated to a good man George Catrakilis and we are proud to have made the final,” he said.
“We will celebrate the victory for now and then we will keep up the professionalism and prepare for the final.”
Eugen Apjok, the Wolves head coach, said: “We made too many mistakes, especially in the second half, and the Heat used the wind well to play in certain areas of the field and deserved to win.”
Brussels Devils and Lusitanos win RE Super Cup rankings matches
Brussels Devils from Belgium and Lusitanos from Portugal will meet in the Rugby Europe Super Cup fifth place play-off on December 16 (12.00pm local) after they both won their rankings matches at the weekend.
The rankings matches are for the teams who will go on to finish from fifth to eighth in the event in a fortnight’s time and Czechia’s Bohemia Rugby Warriors and Netherlands’ Delta will play in the seventh place play-off (3.00pm local).
That is because they lost to the Devils and Lusitanos respectively on Saturday and Sunday.
On Saturday, in the Municipal Stadium in Soignies, the Devils were on top form to get the better of the Warriors 44-10.
Scrum-half Gauthier Petit, winger Pawel Bartoszewicky, second-row Thomas Bastin, captain Hugues Bastin, full-back Mattheo Van Holsbeke and replacement Curtis Mucheron scored the tries for the Devils and winger Remy Driesen and Van Holsbeke kicked the other points.
Centre David Miracky scored a try for the Warriors with stand-off Tristan Horak kicking five points.
Winning captain Bastin said: “Early on it was hard to score, but we stayed patient and focused and it was a good win in the end with the team scoring some nice tries.”
Patrik Prucha, the Warriors captain, said: “It is all about mistakes, we made too many mistakes and at this level you get punished.
“We will not panic and we will work on our defence ahead of the final game.”
On Sunday, Lusitanos put in a similarly dominant showing to the Devils and beat Delta 53-8 at the National Rugby Center in Amsterdam.
A penalty by Delta skipper David Weersma put them 3-0 up early on after Lusitanos had seen a man sent to the sin bin.
Jorge Abecassis, the Lusitanos stand-off, levelled things up with a penalty of their own when they were back to 15 men and then an unconverted try from winger Vasco Durao put the visitors 8-3 ahead.
Daily Limmen, the centre, scored a five pointer for Delta to drag things back to 8-8 before a converted try right on half-time from Durao again gave the Portuguese outfit momentum and a 15-8 lead at the break.
Delta lost a man to a yellow card early in the second period and in that half Lusitanos added six more tries - and 38 points in total - through centre Rodrigo Freudenthal, scrum-half Pedro Lucas, replacement Pedro Vicente, winger Jose Santos, and substitutes Joao Belo and Vasco Leite.
Lusitanos captain Tomás Appleton said: “Quick ball and good play from the forwards was the key to this win.”
Weersma of Delta said: “This competition teaches us a lot about playing at this level and we take a lot from it, but in this game our mistakes were pounced upon and punished.”