The Rugby Europe 2022 U18 Championship came to a close as Georgia retain their Championship title, maintaining their impressive run of 12 unbeaten games since 2018.
Spain joined the champions and Portugal on the podium, and Netherlands finished in 5th place and Czechia finishing in 7th.
The tournament’s final day was met with some heavy and thrilling games, thanks to the players (and rain), staff, match officials, and everyone who worked for a successful tournament.
FACTS & FIGURES
- Georgia secured their 4th Championship title, with a record of 196 points scored, and only 10 conceded.
- Czechia won their first ever game since coming up to Championship level.
- Tariel Burtikashvili finished as the top try-scorer, with 6 tries, followed by teammate Luka Khorbaladze (5) and Spain’s Gabriel Rocaries (4).
CZECHIA EDGES OUT ROMANIA TO FINISH IN 7TH PLACE
Romania and Czechia greeted their fans with a nail-biting thriller, as both teams wanted to get a win in the tournament. With the rain making conditions tricky, the two sides knew that the margin for error had to be reduced to a minimum.
As tensions rose, so did the nerves in both camps, hindering their chances to cross the whitewash… Romania, drew the first 3 points, but struggled to maintain their attacking strategy, allowing the Czechian players to snatch the ball or force penalties; and Czechia, who scored two tries, could’ve built a bigger lead with the opportunities they created.
When there were only five minutes left on the clock, Romania had a clear chance to get ahead on the scoreboard, but the penalty kick didn’t make it through, gifting Czechia the game. In the end, the winning song played for the Czechs (10-08), sending their players to a much-deserved raptures, as it was their first-ever win in the Rugby Europe U18 Championship.
Star of the Match: Daniel Kvassay (Czechia) – even if the multi-functioning backline unit made some mistakes, he didn’t stop for a minute, keeping Romania on their toes, as his pace and almost never-ending stamina was vital for Czechia.
NETHERLANDS IMPRENERTATABLE TO GERMAN SURPRISES
If in the first 35 minutes we had a very close match, with Germany only trailing Netherlands by 2 points, well in the 2nd half the Dutch side pushed their nitro mode, scoring 3 uncontested tries, that would allow them to finish as 5th place.
So, what helped the Orange XV to get a comfortable win? The forward’s thorough work in and outside of the set-piece. It seems a very simple explanation, but it was really what gave Netherlands the much-needed boost to control the flow of the game and finish on a high.
The back-row combo of Mart Van der Veen, Tobias de Prieëlle, and Jazz Drolsbach – and replacement Hidde Post – shutdown Germany’s best chances, overpowering the breakdown contest, as well as dominating and creating tries from their scrum.
From 05-03 at the break to a 22-8 when the full-time whistle sounded, the Dutch squad was able to conquer their second win in the Rugby Europe 2022 U18 Championship, and a top-5 finish.
Star of the Match: Mart Van der Veen (Netherlands) – the captain and flanker kept his team focused on the goal, as well as making some key tackles and breakdown snatches that would help Netherlands stay on the lead until the last whistle;
YOUNG LEONES TAKE BRONZE
After missing out on the Championship final in a kicking contest, Spain wanted to prove their abilities and a win in the Bronze Final. On the other end, Belgium knew they had a good chance to win the 3rd place medal, and for that, it was pivotal for their defense to show up and stop the Spanish backline from finding their way to the try-line.
Alas, the Belgians couldn’t stop their Iberian adversaries from unleashing an effective assault, with fly-half Jaime Powys scoring the first try of the match, breaking the line thanks to a deadly side-step and a lethal hand-off. From that point on, the match tilted in favor of the Spanish side, who would score two more tries until half-time, with centre Yago Fernandez playing a massive role in both plays.
Belgium felt the pressure and couldn’t contain the Spanish rush defense strategy, forcing a wave of mistakes, mainly in the second-half, in which the Leoncitos took advantage and scored four more tries, securing the 3rd place in the Championship.
After sustaining several injuries (Alberto Carmona, being one), the Spanish players came back to their feet and put up a good exhibition on their last day in Georgia.
Star of the Match: Yago Fernandez (Spain) – the centre was that perfect swing of confidence that any team needs, scoring one try, assisting for another, clinching eight tackles, one linebreak, and a couple of big tackle-busts that made Spain’s attack impressive.
LOS LELOS GO FOR THE FOURTH ON A TROT
The Portuguese side put on an excellent display and were the first side to reach for the try, but, in the end, Los Lelos didn’t flinch and didn’t stray from their path to victory.
Two monumental sides clashed in the Rustavi Kharebi Arena, pulling some of the best and most thunderous tackles and carries off this year’s competition, never backing down and holding their lines.
Portugal were impressive when going in for the jackal, triggering dangerous counter moves.
However, Georgia more muscle in the maul, and was excellent in the kicking strategy, making life hard for the Portuguese back-three to secure the wet ball in the air.
Georgia was already in the lead by 13 points when the match-official pointed toward the locker rooms at half-time, but it was all to be played still, as Os Lobos could come back with some trickery.
Luka Tsirekidze's game deserves a huge shout-out, as the fullback was imperial in the air battle (didn’t lose any of the arial contests), saving his team from conceding what could’ve been a very dangerous second try (45th minute), and dotted one of Georgia’s five scores. On the other hand, Portugal’s captain Mateus Ferreira was rock-solid be it in his defensive duties, or as attacking support.
For the 4th consecutive year, Georgia keeps the crown in their power with a 10-34 victory, continuing their impressive run and a well-deserved title.
Star of the Match: Luka Tsirekidze (fullback) – the Georgian forwards did the heavy lifting, but the fullback was key in stopping Portugal’s deep kicks and counter-attacks and was also menacing when joining in an attacking capacity.