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Netherlands defeat Germany for 5th, Belgium relegate Poland

Netherlands earned fifth place and Belgium finished seventh in the men’s Rugby Europe Championship for 2024 after the two early matches on Finals Day at the magnificent Stade Jean Bouin in Paris on Sunday.

It was the 7th place final up first and Belgium defeated Poland 34-8.

The Belgians came flying out of the traps and scored a brilliant opening try in the third minute via full-back Simeon Soenen. Stand-off Hugo De Francq converted.

De Francq then kicked a penalty in the 10th minute before Poland got on the board wit a three-pointer of their own through stand-off Wojciech Piotrowicz.

Belgium then scored two more tries, one converted by De Francq, to lead 22-3 at half-time.

Those tries came from winger Thomas Wallraf and hooker Vincent Tauzia.

Poland were trying their best to get back into things, but a try from back-row Hugues Bastin, converted by De Francq, in the 53rd minute stretched Belgium’s lead to 29-3.

When both teams were down to 14 because of yellow cards, Poland then scored a simply excellent try.

After some great build up work and nice offloads, scrum-half Dawid Plichta scored it. It was unconverted and it was 29-8.

Both teams then had a further man each yellow carded to reduce them to 13 apiece for a spell.

Fittingly, it was Belgium who finished things off when captain Jens Torfs, the centre, burst through the midfield to score their fifth try.

It was unconverted, but they won 34-8.

Belgium No. 8 Thomas De Molder was named player of the match.

Laurent Dossat, the Belgium head coach, said: “I am happy for the players, staff and the board. The players deserve this victory.

“Business is done now, we will enjoy this moment and then start building towards 2025 - the Rugby World Cup going forward even further into the future is our dream.”

Torfs, the skipper, said: “I am very proud of the team. We have had a very good tournament this year apart from one poor game against Germany.

“In this game we put pressure on early on and I think that set us up for the win. We have plenty to build on going forward.”

Player of the match De Molder said: “It was a really good game for Belgium and we are happy with this win.

“We want to keep building from here now.”

Poland head coach Chris Hitt said: “We know we can play well, it is just about having that confidence and belief. We had some really good points during the game, but at times the bounce of the ball didn’t go our way.

“We are all disappointed, but I could not be prouder of the boys.”

Grzegorz Buczek, the Poland captain, said: “We played some good rugby, open rugby, but credit to Belgium they played better.

“This is my last game for my country. The team was always the most important thing and I have been so proud to represent Poland.”

The result means that, for the cumulative ranking in 2023 and 2024, Poland have finished bottom and will be relegated from this level.

Next up, in the 5th place final, Netherlands defeated Germany 45-0.

Early on both sides missed kickable penalty opportunities - Germany two - before Netherlands took the lead in the 14th minute thanks to a well-worked try.

Stand-off Willie Du Plessis spotted a gap in the German backfield and a neat kick through bounced up perfectly for centre Reinhardt Fortuin who managed to collect and score under the posts. The same man converted and it was 7-0.

In the 22nd minute, Fortuin kicked a penalty and it was 10-0 and, five minutes later, from a lineout drive scrum-half Pieter Schoonraad pinballed his way over for a try. Fortuin nailed the tricky conversion and it was 17-0.

Four minutes before the break there was a scuffle and pushing and shoving involving a number of players from both sides and Odin Ruijgrok, the Netherlands loosehead prop, and Germany centre Sebastian Rodwell were both yellow carded.

Netherlands then scored a try with the clock in the red, captain Koen Bloemen, the second-row, throwing a big dummy and then cantering over. Fortuin converted and it was 24-0.

Just as those yellow carded players were about to return to the action, Netherlands scored their fourth try in the 48th minute when winger Bart Wierenga went over. Fortuin converted and it was 31-0.

In the 52nd minute, Germany back-row Luis Ball was yellow carded and, moments later, Netherlands No.8 Christopher Raymond was also sin-binned.

Wierenga scored again in the 61st minute and when Fortuin converted once again it was 38-0.

Three minutes later, Wierenga completed is try hat-trick and another touchline conversion from Fortuin made it 45-0.

David Anderson, the Netherlands replacement, was sin-binned late on, but it finished that way

Netherlands back-row Wolf Van Dijk was named player of the match.

Lyn Jones, the Netherlands head coach, said: “It was everything we wanted. Germany were good in the first 20 minutes, but then we bounced back and dominated from that moment on.

“We are getting better and the players are starting to deliver consistency of skills and we want to push on next season now.”

Skipper Bloemen said: “I must give credit to Germany, they came out flying, but we put pressure on them and then we started to attack well.

“I was pleased to get a try myself, but this is about the team and we are getting better and are excited about the future.”

Van Dijk, the player of the match, said: “I am happy with the result, we had to fight for it.

“The boys all worked hard and we got our reward.”

Mark Kuhlmann, the Germany head coach, said: The Dutch team deserved the win in this game, we made too many mistakes and it was a frustrating end to the campaign.

“We finish in sixth place overall and that was more than we expected at the start of the competition, but we will try and build from here.”

Jorn Schroder, the Germany captain, said: “It was a tough day at the office for us.

“We missed some points at the start and then we were on the back foot for the rest of the game and the Netherlands played well and took their chances.”

By Gary Heatly 
Photos Pedro Pinheiro

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