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U18 & U20 Championships kick off in Prague

The 2023 Men’s U18 and U20 Championships both got underway at the weekend (11-12 November), and we take a look at the results from the quarter-final stage of the competition.  

An entertaining lowlands derby

A Lowlands derby never disappoints, and the U18s made sure of delivering a good performance for their fans. In the Championship opening game, the Dutch started with the right foot scoring a converted try on the back of an unstoppable maul, adding three more points before the end of the first half.

After the Belgium stepped things up, slotted in six points thanks to two well-guided penalties by Rory Askew, closing the gap to 4 points.

The score kept unchanged until the last ten minutes, when Netherlands started to find their groove, scoring twenty-four points. Flanker Tobias de Prieele broke the line and set up for number-eight Gabriel Cashay to muscle his way into the goal area to score.

The Dutch finished off their fine performance with tries from centre Ilan Vaassen and hooker Guus Henkes. Vaassen added seven converted points to clinch a 34-6 win for Netherlands.

Romania challenges the 2022 finalists

Portugal made it through to the Championship semifinals, but only after surviving a spirited Romania in the second game of the day.

The Portuguese would score first by a Tomás Marques penalty kick and a converted try from hooker Manuel Magriço.

The Romanians clawed back to life and were able to score, after Vlad Croitoru jumped on to a loose pass Portuguese pass and grounded the ball, much to the joy of his teammates. 

In the last play before the break, fullback Francisco Pissarra found Francisco Pinto out wide, and the winger expanded Portugal’s led to 8-points.

Both teams struggled with the wet conditions in the second half, but the Portuguese were still be able to score a third try by Manuel Magriço. As occured in the first half, Romania replied with a five-pointer, as replacement scrum-half Stefan Mirzac tricked the opposition and successfully assisted centre Sebastien Tofa.

The young “Oaks” converted their last penalty kick, but it wouldn’t be enough to overhaul Portugal’s 22-15 lead with the young ‘Os Lobos’ progressing into the semi-finals.  

Georgia power through Switzerland

The reigning champions might’ve finished in style, but it was Switzerland who scored first after an early try-interception by fullback Cian Dennehy. The newly-promoted nation held the lead until the tenth minute of the first half, forcing Georgia to dig deep and work hard to get back on to the scoreboard.

A brace of tries out of Luka Saginadze’s hands pushed the young “Lelos” ahead, a lead they wouldn’t lose again. Georgia had more muscle in the pack and their backline showed why they are reigning champions.

Georgia was able to assert full dominance during the second half, as Mikheil Shioshvili’s entrance helped them set the tone after the break and would end up scoring ten uncontested tries, earning another semifinal qualification.

Although defeated, Switzerland was the first team to score ten points in the opening round against Georgia for the four past editions, and to be in the lead for 5 minutes straight, an astounding feat in their first U18 Championship campaign.

Spain and Czechia and the best match of the opening round

To cap off day 1 of the Championship, Spain and Czechia produced a nail-biter and the bronze winners of 2022 scored a last-minute try to seal their semifinal qualification.

Spain dominated from the start and produced an early try score by centre Manuel Gutierrez’s, and would earn their second one thanks to scrum half Nicolas Infer. Captain Gonzalo Otamendi added the extra two points to guide them into a 12-point lead.

The home side replied back before half-time, building up some phases next to the try-line before loosehead prop Antonin Supa wriggled his way in to get Czechia on the scoreboard. Unfortunately for them, Nicolas Infer would pull a trick out of his hat, creating another opportunity to assist Matteo Aragon for a third Spanish try before the final whistle.

After the break, Czechia controlled possession, scoring ten points in twenty minutes, five from Matej Sehnal’s boot and a second try from Milos Vrana to send the game into a frenzy.

Gonzalo Otamendi slotted a penalty kick, but it would take a last-minute try to finally draw an end to this 25-15 contest. Czechia were close to an upset, but Spain’s experience helped them through the critical period of the match.

The semi-final and ranking fixtures take place on Tuesday with the schedule to be found HERE

Rugby Europe U20 Championship 

Belgium powers through Romania

Belgium had to withstand a last gasp-effort from Romania but held on to keep their Championship aspiration alive. The Belgians were the dominant side for most of the game, forcing their opponents to concede several penalties at the set-piece, scoring two tries, one conversion, and one penalty to earn what would be a vital fifteen-point lead before the 30-minute mark.

Romania found their way to the try-line five minutes later, with fly-half Ionut Sava creating a gap and assisting Mihai Chirica.

Belgium regathered and picked up the pace again, and after a brilliant offload from centre Theo Adaba, Maxence Nicolás kicked a grubber to regather and dot his team’s third try.

For the remainder of the second-half, Romania and Belgium exchanged points, allowing Belgium to qualify for the Championship semifinal.

Portugal dominate Poland

Portugal was simply lethal and vicious in defeating Poland 122-00, landing a record win in the U20 Rugby Europe Championship. The Portuguese side played as close to the perfect game as you will see, from the very first whistle and made sure to score tries at any given opportunity.

Centre Alfredo Almeida scored five tries, but it was Pedro Cunha with the opening five-pointer right at the start.

In the wings of a powerful pack and a swift backline, the former three-time U20 champions dominated and would wrap up the first half with a 35-point lead.

In the second half, they raised the pace and speed, scoring thirteen uncontested tries against a Polish team who will be looking to pick themselves up for their remaining matches.

Ligue Aura with champagne rugby

The invitational side, Ligue Aura (the regional French team), defeated Switzerland in the third match of the opening round of the U20 Championship making a strong statement.

The French team proved to be too powerful, cruising past the opposition's defense and piled up thirteen tries, six of them done in the first half.

Switzerland tried to bounce back, but the Ligue Aura poaching skills and swift counterattack made sure there were no doubts about who would be progressing to the semi-finals.

Natael Faure and Mathieu Solere were excellent in helping Ligue Aura start the competition with a 85-0 win.

Netherland half-century downs hosts

The 2022 runners-up started their 2023 campaign in full flight, convincingly defeating Czechia and booking a semifinal showdown against long-time rivals, Portugal.

Vikas Meijer slotted three points to boost Netherlands start, and seven minutes later Jules Swier would cash in his nation's first try of the competition.

Throughout the first half, the Dutch team kept pressuring and scored four more tries, building a comfortable lead following the efforts of Mart Van der Veen and Kaj Verhoorn.

In the last half, Czechia dotted down their only try, earning their first points after a good succession of phases. Netherlands expanded the lead and finished with a 50-07 victory. 

The U20 Championship continues on Wednesday with the ranking matches and semi-finals in Prague and will be broadcast on and our YouTube channel. 

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