Malta and Finland both registered their biggest-ever wins, with the Maltese climbing five places in the World Rugby Rankings in the process, and there were also gains for Denmark and Latvia, with the latter now on the verge of breaking into the world’s top 50, after the latest round of Rugby Europe matches.
With perfect conditions underfoot and blue skies above, Malta ran in eight tries to beat hosts Andorra 63-15 in the opening game of the Conference 1 South season which, like the rest of this weekend's European matches, doubles as a Rugby World Cup 2019 qualifier.
Malta’s biggest-ever win in 16 years as a test-playing nation lifts the Mediterranean side up five places to 44th in the world, taking them above Madagascar, Senegal, the Cook Islands, Lithuania and recently-crowned Rugby Americas North 2016 champions Mexico.
Andorra, who have now been beaten in their last two home games, drop 1.35 rating points and two places to 64th, enabling Israel and Venezuela to move up at their expense.
LATVIA EYE TOP 50
Latvia were pushed all the way by Luxembourg in Conference 1 North before a 67th-minute try from full-back Roberts Davidsons sealed a 31-24 victory that moves them to within one-hundredth of a rating point of Trinidad and Tobago in 50th place.
After being deducted 0.42 of a point, Luxembourg drop three places in the rankings to 61st, with Singapore, the Cayman Islands and Sweden all benefitting.
Norway, conquerors of Finland in their first match of the season, missed out on the chance to draw level with Hungary at the top of the Conference 2 North standings after falling to a 20-0 defeat to Denmark on a wet day in Odense.
Denmark scored all three of their tries before the break to lead 17-0 but could only manage a penalty in the second half as they celebrated their first win of the season at the second attempt.
The Danes move up three places to 87th after a gain of 1.06 points, overtaking the Bahamas and Mauritius in the process. Norway drop three places to 92nd with defeat.
Also in Conference 2 North, outside centre Jussi Viljanen scored a hat-trick of tries as Finland, ranked 99th in the world, beat Estonia 51-6 in Helsinki. The match did not affect the rankings as Estonia are not currently a member of World Rugby.
At the opposite end of the rankings, New Zealand’s lead over second-placed England remains at 7.08 points. Neither New Zealand's nor Australia's points total was affected by the All Blacks' hard-fought 37-10 Bledisloe Cup win at Eden Park in Auckland.
The victory, which was not assured until Julian Savea intervened with a brace of second-half tries, sees Steve Hansen’s side surpass the tier one record winning streak of 17 tests previously held by the 1965-69 and 2013-14 All Blacks and the 1997-98 Springboks.
They now share the record of 18 consecutive test victories with Lithuania, who went unbeaten from 2006-10.
The test record caps a remarkable 12 months in which the All Blacks became the first side to successfully defend the Webb Ellis Cup, retained the Bledisloe Cup for a 14th consecutive year, wrestled back the Rugby Championship title from Australia and increased their lead at the top of the rankings.
Since Hansen took over after Rugby World Cup 2011, the All Blacks have only lost three of their 64 matches.