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Poland, France, Moldova and Norway all taste sevens success.

Poland’s women and France’s men came out on top in the first leg of the Rugby Europe Championship Series for 2024 after a great three days in Croatia over the weekend.

In Makarska, Poland’s women won three out of three games in Pool C with France and Spain having similar records to top Pool A and Pool B respectively.

France showed they were a real force to be reckoned with by beating Germany 41-0 in their quarter-final of the 12-team event.

Belgium secured a cracking 12-5 last eight win over Great Britain with Poland, who beat Czechia 19-5, and Spain, who saw off Ireland 33-17, also progressing to the semi-finals.

Given the quality on show up to that point, it was perhaps not too surprising that the two last four matches were tight and full of great tries. France edged out Belgium 19-17 and Poland got the better of Spain 26-17.

Belgium managed to recover from that defeat to France and won the bronze medal with a 17-10 victory over Spain.

So, to the final then and Poland took the lead through an excellent try from Ilona Zaisliuc in the first half.

Katarzyna Paszczyk (awarded as player of the tournament) then went over for a converted try as they extended their lead to 12-0 before a five-pointer by Emeline Gros gave France hope and it was 12-5 at the break.

When Poland had a player in the sin bin, France scored a second try through Alycia Chrystiaens, but she could not convert and it was 12-10.

Poland then held on to spark celebrations as they took gold and France silver.

After rankings matches, Czechia were fifth, Germany sixth, Great Britain seventh, Ireland eighth, Italy ninth, Türkiye 10th, Portugal 11th and Ukraine 12th.

The men’s event also involved 12 teams and Belgium were the only team to win all three pool matches to top Pool C.

Germany and France topped the other pools, but with one loss apiece it showed how tight this competition was going to be.

Belgium were shocked 12-7 in the last eight by Georgia with France, Germany and Ireland also progressing to the semis after wins over Portugal, Italy and Great Britain respectively.

France and Ireland turned on the style in the semi -finals, the former seeing off Georgia 26-7 and Germany being dispatched 31-7 by the latter.

Germany then dusted themselves down to take bronze by getting the better of the Georgians 31-5.

The final, like the women’s one was a tight one.

An early try from Enahemo Artaud put France 5- 0 up before Ireland levelled things up through Connor O'Sullivan after great footwork. It was converted and the Irish were 7-5 up.

Artaud then beat some poor defence to score his second which was converted to make it 12-7. That was the score at half -time and the second period was scoreless as France took gold in the hand of Alexis Levron, the Captain and Player of the Tournament.

Portugal were fifth, Italy were sixth, Great Britain seventh, after such a good start Belgium eighth, Spain ninth, Lithuania 10th, Croatia 11th in front of their own fans and Ukraine 12th.

The second leg for women and men will be in Hamburg, Germany, at the end of the month (28-30 June).

Meanwhile, in Belgrade in Serbia, Moldova won the women’s Conference 1 standalone event and will be promoted to the Trophy.

They took gold with a 24-10 final win over Slovakia in the eight-team event, the silver medal winners also gaining promotion.

Lithuania took the bronze after a 24-10 victory over Croatia.

Malta were fifth, Bulgaria sixth, Luxembourg seventh and Estonia eighth.

In the men’s Conference 1 standalone event, Norway were crowned the champions.

They edged out Denmark 14-0 in a good final to take gold and both sides will now move up to the Trophy.

In the third/fourth play- off match, Serbia wowed the home crowd to take bronze after a 52-0 thumping of Finland.

In the nine -team tournament, Bulgaria were fifth, Andorra sixth, Austria seventh, Malt eight and Sam Marino ninth.

San Marino’s 21-17 defeat to Malta consigns them to relegation to Conference 2.

By Gary Heatly

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