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San Marino take the Conference 2 trophy in Bar

The 2023 7s Men Conference 2 took place last weekend at the Madžarica Stadium in Bar, Montenegro. 

The tournament was made up of six men’s teams who played each other in a round-robin format to decide the winner of the competition.  

A certain rule which would turn out to be particularly significant stipulated that if once all the fixtures had been played, there were two teams on the same number of points, the winner would be decided on the team’s head-to-head record.

The competition got underway at midday local time on Saturday after some sever weather had delayed the start, with Slovakia edging past Slovenia in an entertaining encounter, winning 21-14. The following fixtures would not be as close, with San Marino and hosts Montenegro comfortably defeating Kosovo and Estonia respectively.  

Slovakia went from strength-to-strength in the second round of fixtures as they inflicted a second straight loss upon Estonia, coasting to a 26-5 victory. Slovenia bounced back from a disappointing loss which opened the day, as they showed sheer determination and aggression to claim victory against one of tournament favourites, San Marino.

Montenegro joined Slovakia in being the only undefeated sides at the end of Day 1, with the host nation too strong for Kosovo as they ran out victors, with the final score line reading 17-0 in their favour.    

The second day four sides were still in contention to top the pool, and many of these sides were still being able to finish bottom, such was the competitiveness of the tournament. An incredible display of attacking rugby came through Estonia, who put Kosovo to the sword in a 48-7 victory. As these sides went on to finish in 5th and 6th in the final rankings.

Montenegro kept the home crowd happy as they continued their winning streak in their first fixture on Sunday, defeating Slovenia by one try. An even closer result would end up deciding the tournament winners though, with San Marino inflicting a 17-15 loss on Slovakia to keep their hopes of winning the tournament alive, and denting Slovakia’s at the same time.

The afternoon session would see even more drama, with Slovenia coming from behind to beat Kosovo, keeping alive their slim chances of winning the tournament in the process. This was after San Marino had coasted past Estonia in a 24-0 victory, a result that Slovakia tried to match as they upset the home crowd in a dominant performance against Montenegro, coming out on the right side of a 20-7 score line.

As the day came to a close, the final three fixtures did not disappoint the crowd, who were now in fine voice. Slovenia came out on top against Estonia, with the latter finishing 5th following Kosovo’s loss to Slovakia. This result had repercussions at both ends of the table, as it ensured Kosovo finished last but also meant that Slovakia would win the competition if Montenegro were able to defeat San Marino.

So, it all came down to the last game of the tournament. A victory for Montenegro and the tournament was theirs, but San Marino’s future was in their own hands as winning against the hosts would mean they would leave Montenegro with the title.

The match proved to be one-sided, with San Marino’s flair and fluidity in attack clear for all to see. They led 31-0, before a consolation score for Montenegro gave the home crowd something to cheer about.

This 31-7 result meant Giovanni Gianesini’s men finished first, as their slim victory over Slovakia proved to be crucial as the sides could not be separated on points, but this superior head-to-head record led the Sammarinese to claim the title.

By Paul Wilkinson

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