Quite a lot of interesting things happening in the various European leagues. A general tendency is the decline of the Eastern European teams and the improvement of the Western nations. In the Championship Georgia won all five games but neither Romania or Spain were pushovers. Spain came a strong second, only losing to Georgia. At the other end, Belgium beat Germany 29 – 22 to send them down to a playoff against the winners of the Trophy. This was dominated by Portugal who play a very attractive brand of attacking rugby. They scored 272 points for and 31 against with a bonus point from every game. They had one hard fought game, against the Netherlands, who placed second in the Trophy. Poland won a couple of games but lost 49 – 0 at home to the Netherlands and 65 – 5 away to Portugal. Switzerland came third in the table, beating Poland, Lithuania and Czechia. The latter had a disastrous season, losing all five matches, including 93 – 0 away to Portugal. They will now move down to Conference 1.
Conference 1 South was completed yesterday with the two undefeated teams, Malta and Croatia, meeting. Croatia had assembled Croatian qualified from all over the place and were said to be at their strongest for some time. Malta as always have many Brits with a Maltese background. This was a bruising game which ended in a draw 18 – 18. Looking through the rules the points were the same, the number of tries scored was the same so it was down to points for and against in the whole Conference. Malta had + 68 points and Croatia + 54, so it was Malta judged the winners by the narrowest of margins. They will now play the winners of Conference 1 North for a place in the Trophy next year. And they will not be a pushover.
The first game in this Conference after the Winter break was played yesterday when Luxemburg met Moldova. The Moldovans needed to win to avoid relegation and they fielded a slightly better team than in the Autumn. Their big pack rumbled over for a couple of tries but with a couple of minutes to go a rather shaky Luxemburg were just holding on. Unless they beat the Ukraine by a huge score next week they will be heading for Conference 2 after the summer. Meanwhile, our intensive preparations for the Hungary and Ukraine matches which will determine who wins Conference 1 North continue (joke).