European Nations Rugby Cup: Portugal upsets Russia
In round two of the European Nations Cup, the Portuguese rugby team travelled to Russia and beat the home team, 21-19. This follows the Lobos unexpected win last week against Romania. Now Portugal has beaten two teams who will go to the rugby World Cup ahead of them.
For some reason, Russia is playing their home games in Sochi, a skiing resort on the Black Sea near the disputed Georgian territory of Abkhazia and nowhere near its rugby heartland. This was shown up as the crowd for the game was only just over 100. Sochi will host the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Each team scored two tries but Portugal led 18-9 mid second half and the Russians had to play catch up rugby, but were not able make it with the missed conversions proving costly. Russia has a new coach in Nicolay Nerush who replaced Steve Diamond who has taken up a coaching position in England.
Man of the match was the Australian-born fly half Joe Gardener who contributed 16 of Portugal’s 21 points from a try, three penalties and a conversion. However, the Lobos played as a team with Gardener the director general whilst the Russians did not seem to know each other.
Meanwhile, over in Tbilisi, the Georgians playing in the grass-less Locomotiv Stadium tore apart the hapless Spanish team. Spain, who had played so well against Russia last week simply gave up. Spain only allowed the Lelos in for a solitary try in the first 25 minutes. However, right on half time, Georgia was awarded a penalty in front of the Spanish posts, but instead of kicking a penalty and going to the break, the Lelos packed a scrum and scored a converted try to lead 27-0.
With a 12,000 home crowd, Georgia piled on another five tries in the second term as the Spanish were run off their feet and their lack of condition became a liability. The Spanish starting 15 comprised of 10 who played in France, four who play in the Spain and one who plays in England. It appears that Catalonia has completely broken from the Spanish Rugby Federation and now play only in their own region in two divisions. Not a single player in the Spanish squad comes from Catalonia.
But it was the quality of Georgia’s nine tries that was impressive. The nine were scored by eight different players, Surprisingly seven were by the backs and only two by forwards. Two of the tries were absolute gems, one by the hooker, Iuri Natrashvili and the other by outside centre, David Kacharava, that both would be standouts in any level of rugby. The Spanish were obviously delighted when the referee called full-time with the 60-0 scoreline.
The other A1 division game between Ukraine and Romania was postponed three hours before the scheduled starting time due to the frozen state of the ground. The fixture will be played sometime before June.
In Brussels, a division 1B game was held between Belgium and Moldova. It was a heavy pitch played in rain with Belgium taking an 11-0 half time lead but overall, it was a scrappy and error ridden game with only one try each.
Belgium finally won this mostly forgettable game 20-5.