Stalemate in decider enough for Georgia
Georgia finished top of this year’s European Nations Cup Division 1A table as the deciding match in Bucharest went right down to the wire.
The Georgians drew 9-9 with Romania on Saturday but were crowned champions thanks to their superior points difference.
Georgia fly half Merab Kvirikashvili and Romania centre Florian Vlaicu swapped penalties in the first half to leave the half-time score 6-6.
Each kicker added another three-pointer in the second half but neither side was able to find the decisive score.
Both sides finished on 19 points but Georgia took the title thanks to a +25 differential over their rivals, having scored an average of 27 points a game.
Although Georgia are champions, this season’s matches are the first part of a two-leg process, with next year’s results crucial to the qualifying process for Rugby World Cup 2015.
After completion of the European Nations Cup 2014, the top two sides will qualify for England 2015, while the third-placed side will remain in the qualifying hunt via the Repechage.
The final weekend of this year’s competition also saw Russia beat Belgium 43-32 and Spain draw 9-9 with Portugal.
Russia’s victory in a high-scoring encounter leaves them five points adrift of the top two and therefore firmly in contention for England 2015.
Russia outscored the Belgians seven tries to four in an entertaining clash in Sochi, the scene of next year’s Winter Olympic Games, but had to withstand a Belgian comeback near the end.
A try from Russian number 8 Victor Gresev opened the scoring but Belgium pulled back to 10-10 midway through the first half and they remained well in touch at the break, just 17-13 down.
From the restart, however, Russia began to exert their authority to build up an 18-point margin and appeared to have the game sewn up when they led 36-18 with 66 minutes gone.
But Belgium refused to cave in and with just over 10 minutes left began racking up their score at quicker than a point a minute.
Their response fell just short, a penalty try and conversion right on 80 minutes bringing the Belgians within a score at 36-32. However, there was still time for a try from Grigory Tsnobiladze to give Russia some breathing space.
It took a last-minute penalty from Spain’s fly half Corey Simpson to ensure his side shared the spoils in their clash with neighbours Portugal.
Spain got off to a flying start in Santiago de Compostela through penalties by Simpson and Jaime Nava de Olano to lead 6-0 at the break.
Portugal hit back after the break as kicks from Pedro Leal (two) and Samuel Marques edged the visitors’ noses in front 9-6 with just over 10 minutes left before Simpson secured a last-gasp draw.
In Division 1B, three tries for second row Veaceslav Titica helped Moldova make the most of their home advantage to beat Czech Republic 37-12 in the capital, Chisinau.
The victory was Moldova’s first of this campaign, while the Czech Republic’s tally reads five defeats from five matches.