Russia scored with the last play of the game to beat Belgium in a victory that not only lifted them up two places in the World Rugby Rankings to 18th but also saw them pick up their first points on the road to Rugby World Cup 2019.
All matches other than those against Georgia over this year and next count towards the race to claim the Europe 1 spot at Japan 2019, with a highly competitive Rugby Europe Championship doubling up as the qualification tournament.
With Romania also winning at the weekend, only one point now covers the teams ranked second to fifth in the Championship table following two rounds of action.
Georgia, who secured their place in Japan 18 months ago, thanks to their stellar campaign at the last tournament in England, head the outright Championship table after registering their second bonus-point win of the campaign in Sunday's fixture against Germany.
ROMANIA 13-3 SPAIN
Florin Vlaicu scored all his side’s points as Romania beat Spain 13-3 in a scrappy encounter in Bucharest.
Vlaicu scored and converted Romania’s only try, in the 15th minute, in addition to two penalty goals to take his overall tally in tests to 794 points.
After an early penalty attempt from near halfway fell short – Vlaicu’s first miss of the 2017 Championship – the centre got his name on the scoreboard from an unlikely source, at the back of a driving maul.
Spain’s misfiring lineout meant they struggled for territory throughout but they pulled three points back when Brad Linklater punished Viorel Lucaci’s tip-tackle. Vlaicu slotted his next kick, after Linklater had put another effort wide, to make the half-time scoreline, 10-3.
The only points of an error-strewn second half came when Vlaicu drilled over his second penalty in the 57th minute, after Spain openside Gautier Gibouin was penalised by Italian referee Ellia Rizzo for going off his feet at the breakdown.
Spain lacked penetration in attack but they almost profited from a handling error on halfway by Romania with 12 minutes remaining. Centre Fabien Perrin twice hacked on the loose ball and touched down after an error of judgement from the Oaks' back three, but the try was chalked off after the assistant referee spotted a Spanish hand had knocked the ball forward in the initial tackle.
BELGIUM 18-25 RUSSIA
Newly-promoted Belgium can count themselves unlucky not to have had at least a share of the spoils after pushing Russia all the way in front of a big and boisterous crowd in Brussels.
Early tries from Victor Gresev and captain Andrei Garbuzov had put Russia in command at 12-3, but Belgium responded brilliantly to lead 15-12 after scoring two tries of their own either side of half-time.
Winger Ervin Muric first showed the Russian defence a clean pair of heels to touch down Jens Torfs' kick ahead, before Alan Williams converted number eight Michael Demolder’s try seven minutes after the restart to put Belgium 15-12 in front.
A couple of kicks from Yury Kushnarev and one from Williams meant the scores were level at 18-18 heading into stoppage time.
Belgium came under intense pressure as Russia attacked repeatedly through their forwards in the dying stages, and after a series of pick-and-goes second-row Evgeny Elgin spotted enough space around the ruck to dive over for the match-winning try.
Russia gain three-quarters of a rating point to move on to 63.00, which is enough to lift them above Namibia and Canada and into 18th place in the World Rugby Rankings.
GEORGIA 50-6 GERMANY
Germany were unable to repeat their heroics of a week earlier when they beat Romania 41-38, as they fell to a resounding defeat at the hands of Georgia in the only match to take place on Sunday.
The Lelos marked Merab Kvirikashvili’s 100th cap in style, outscoring their visitors eight tries to none, as the full-back became the Georgian first player to reach a century of test caps.
Centre Giorgi Koshadze bagged a first-half brace and there were further try doubles for back-row duo Giorgi Tkhilaishvili and Giorgi Begadze in the second half. Winger Giorgi Pruidze and centre Merab Sharikadze also got their names on the scoresheet.
Kvirikashvili kicked four of his seven conversion attempts before he was replaced with a couple of minutes to go.
The Rugby Europe Championship resumes on 4 March when Spain are at home to Georgia, Russia play Romania in Sochi and Belgium are on the road for the first time this season with a game against Germany in Offenbach.
Meanwhile, in the Rugby Europe Trophy, Portugal have moved up to second place behind the Netherlands after a 35-10 home win against Poland. The victory was worth 0.32 of a rating point to Os Lobos, who remain in 25th place in the rankings. Poland fall to 34th, with Switzerland and Brazil the beneficiaries.
Main photo credit: Sportkipik.be