The third, and final, day of the Algarve leg of the Ruby Europe Sevens Championship Series began this morning and it did not disappoint for all those watching live in attendance, or via the Rugby Europe website.
The day kicked off with fixtures set to determine the 5th to 8th rankings in the Women’s competition. Spain got past Germany and Belgium defeated Czechia, meaning that the winners of these matches played one another, with the losing teams doing the same.
Germany edged a tight, tense game with Czechia, scoring the winning try in extra time, a period where the first side to score any points won the game. As a result, the Germans took 7th spot with Czechia finishing 8th. Spain went on to beat Belgium to take 5th place, with the latter finishing 6th.
In the other contests in the Women’s competition, Italy outclassed hosts Portugal in a 34-14 victory to take 9th place and the Portuguese finished 10th as a result. Sweden won in a thriller against Romania, with extra time once again needed to separate the two sides. Due to their 17-12 victory, Sweden finished 11th and Romania were left feeling dejected as they came bottom.
In the semi-finals, Great Britain showed just how good they can be in a 31-7 triumph against Poland. Before this performance, Ciaran Beattie’s team had not been too consistent, and they would need to replicate a similarly strong performance to be able to defeat France in the final.
Les Bleus were nothing short of spectacular in their semi-final victory over Ireland, personified by their skipper Camille Grassineau. The French stifled any opportunity that Ireland had to attack, whilst at the same time being devastating going forward as they scored five tries in a 29-0 win.
Before the Final, Poland faced Ireland in the Bronze Medal Match. The Poles had done very well to get to this stage in the competition, and this match just proved to be a step too far for them as they were comfortably beaten by Ireland 20-7, who claimed third spot.
The main event, the Final, then got underway. Great Britain started strongly, picking up where they had left off in their dominant semi-final performance. However, they could just not keep the French at bay, who ran in two tries in the second half to secure a 19-7 victory, and take the trophy.
This competition is particularly important for the seedings for the European Games in Krakow in two weekends time, where a spot at the Paris Olympic Games will be up for grabs for the winner. As France have already qualified because they are the hosts, the side’s mindset in this tournament has to be praised because they did not have as much to play for compared to the other nations, but were still determined to win the tournament.
The Men’s competition followed a similar format, with Spain too strong for Italy in the first Men’s fixture of this morning, which proved to be a particularly feisty encounter. They met Portugal in the play-off for 5th place, and the home team made the most of the local support to get past Germany 21-19. The Germans’ potential was clear for all to see, and they offered a glimpse of what they could do as they were on the right side of the scoreboard in a match that finished 17-12 against Italy. This meant they finished 7th in the competition, with the Azzurri taking 8th spot.
In the other Men’s fixtures, Romania eased to victory against Czechia to claim 11th place, with the latter side finishing bottom. Belgium also eased their way to victory against Lithuania, ensuring that these sides finished 9th and 10th respectively.
It was then time for the Men’s semi-finals. Georgia were once again responsible for causing a major upset. Yesterday it was Spain who had their hopes of winning the tournament dashed by the Georgians, and today it was France’s turn. Besik Khamashuridze’s men dug in to come out the victors in their clash with the French, winning the match 14-7.
There was much more to come in the semi-finals, as there was another pulsating match-up between Ireland and Great Britain. When they met in the pool stage, these sides were only separated by 5 points, and the margin was even thinner this time round. A 17-14 victory was enough for Ireland to claim their place in the final.
In the Bronze Medal match, France stuck to the gameplan they have employed this weekend. Being strong in defence and forcing their opponent into making errors, before striking with pace and precision on the counter-attack themselves paid dividends as Great Britain came unstuck, losing 21-14.
Then came the moment that the crowd in the Algarve had been waiting for, the Final. Georgia came firing out of the blocks, thwarting Ireland’s efforts in attack and scoring a try of their own to take a 5-0 lead. However, this strong Irish side found their way back into the game, coming out on the right side of the score line to win 19-10.
These two sides, along with Great Britain and Spain to name a few, will be looking to qualify for the Olympics in Krakow in two weeks. This tournament has showcased the quality of these sides, and means the European Championships will certainly be a mouth-watering spectacle.