Moldova made it two wins from two while Finland recorded an opening men’s Rugby Europe Conference victory at the weekend.
The Moldovans had played well to defeat Türkiye 33-14 on the road in week one to get their Pool C campaign off to the perfect start.
And on Saturday in the Dinamo Stadium in Chisinau they continued their fine form, this time on home turf, by getting the better of Serbia 31-11.
Serbia took the lead in this one after five minutes when Nikola Stankovic, the centre, kicked a penalty.
Moldova’s forwards then got on the front foot and a penalty try made it 7-3 to the home side in the 10th minute.
Their backs then got in on the action a few minutes later and an unconverted try out wide by winger Valeriu Chipercean made it 12-3.
Alexandru Bejan, the Moldovan second-row, was yellow carded after 31 minutes and a second Stankovic penalty made it 12-6.
The 14 men managed to score an unconverted try through their forwards in the 38th minute to make it 17-6.
Serbia were not done yet though and, after Stankovic missed a penalty in the 46th minute, his centre partner Julien Matijasevic ran in a cracking try a few minutes later. It was not converted and it was 17-11 with just over half an hour to go.
Moldova had to up things again and they did in the 54th minute when loosehead prop Ruslan Dorogan went over for a converted try.
And, with nine minutes to go, they were awarded a second penalty try to win 31-11.
Moldova already have nine points on the board to lead Pool C.
Denmark had started their campaign off with a home 36-8 bonus point win over Andorra the previous week, but on Saturday they were just edged out by Finland in a gripping Pool A match.
It was Finland’s first outing in the competition for 2023/24 and they clearly enjoyed playing at the Myllypuro Sports Park in Helsinki because they fought back from 10-0 down.
Simon Holm, the centre, had the first chance to put Denmark ahead, but he missed a penalty.
Centre Josh Jensen then went close before full-back Mads Jorgensen showed good strength to go over for an unconverted try.
It got even better for Denmark when winger Victor Hounou showed great pace to go over for his own five pointer to make it 10-0 to the visiting team.
Finland needed to get a foothold in the game and they did so when No.8 John Poole barged his way over. Captain Jussi Viljanen converted and it was 10-7.
Just before the half hour mark Finland scored their second try when they won a scrum against the head and, following a number of strong phases, winger Samu-Petteri Paakko cut inside and went over. Viljanen converted for 14-10.
There were no more points in the rest of the game as both teams defended well and cancelled each other out as Finland held on.
Denmark are top of Pool A on six points after taking a losing bonus point from this one.
By Gary Heatly
Photos by Laura Helminen (Finland v Denmark) and Moldova Rugby Union