Romania and Georgia lead way in Europe
Defending champions Georgia and traditional rivals Romania are the only sides with a perfect record after the second round of Division 1A matches in the European Nations Cup 2014, which doubles as the region’s qualification process for Rugby World Cup 2015.
Georgia, who survived a scare against newcomers Belgium last weekend, ran out 25-12 winners over Portugal in Tbilisi but it is Romania who lead the standings on point differential after scoring 20 unanswered points to beat Russia 29-14 in Bucharest.
Russia had led 14-9 with half an hour remaining, but Catalin Robert Dascalu’s try brought the sides level it was then left to Florin Vlaicu to keep the scoreboard ticking over with two conversions – including one of his only last minute try – and two penalties to seal the win.
Georgia also scored a last minute try but that simply made the margin of victory over Portugal more comfortable looking, having outscored their opponents by three tries to none at the Mikheil Meskhi Stadium on Saturday.
Tries from Lasha Khmaladze and a Tedo Zibzibadze brace helped Georgia – the highest placed of the Division 1A in the IRB World Rankings – make it two from two with Portugal’s only reply coming with four penalties from the boot of Pedro Leal.
The weekend’s other match ended in a stalemate with Alan Williams’ penalty five minutes from time rescuing a 21-21 draw for Belgium with Spain in Brussels, leaving both sides still searching for their first win of the new European Nations Cup cycle.
Belgium had gone in leading 13-6 at half time with Thomas de Molder and Matías Tudela crossing the try-line for their respective sides. The home side increased that lead when Guillaume Piron touched down and with 30 minutes to go an upset looked on the cards.
However, Spain, beaten 13-9 by Russia last weekend, refused to panic and gradually clawed their way back with two penalties from Javier Carrion and then his conversion of Jaike Carter’s try which edged the visitors into the lead for the first time with nine minutes remaining.
Belgium, though, were not to be denied their draw and now look forward to their first away trip to Portugal in round two on 23 February. Spain will welcome Romania the same day while Georgia travel to Russia hoping to repeat their 46-0 rout of their neighbours in 2012.