Five of the ten games played in the European North Conference 1, with the remainder to be played in the Spring of 2019.
After two games each Sweden and Ukraine have 9 points, Hungary 5, Luxembourg 1 and Moldavia 0.
Sweden has still to play Hungary and Ukraine; Ukraine plays Moldova and Sweden; Hungary plays Sweden and Luxembourg; Luxembourg plays Moldova and Hungary, while Moldavia plays Luxembourg and Ukraine.
Sweden´s strengths and weaknesses have been dealt with earlier. I´ve watched all the games and none of the teams have been particularly convincing. Ukraine are ranked 35 and should be the strongest team in the group. Yet in 2017 they only drew with Hungary and were well beaten by Lithuania who were then promoted. This year they were initially in command against Luxembourg but faded at the start of the second half and the match was in the balance, 17 – 13, for some time. Their strong pack pulled them through and they got a try late on to make it 24 – 13. In their second game, they also looked like running away with it, leading 30 – 10 at half time. But once again they seemed to fade, letting Hungary back into the game with a final score of 48 – 24.
Sweden started off with the rout of an appalling Moldavian team who conceded 49 points in 17 minutes in the second half. In their second game against Luxembourg Sweden just had the edge but could easily have lost to a final easy penalty which just sailed by.
The final game saw Moldavia face Hungary. The match was moved to a small town outside the capital and was played on the worst, badly marked, pitch I have ever seen in European rugby. Moldavia had retained nine of the starters against Sweden, had improved slightly, but were still a very poor team. The crowd was no more than a few dozen. This was Hungary´s first game and they were not impressive, far poorer than the year before. They conceded a try in the first minute and struggled to win 31 – 16, although their victory was never in doubt.
Summing up, Sweden a little better than the year before, but still nothing like a complete side. Ukraine with a strong pack who seem to go off the boil in the second half. Nothing like the team of yesteryear, Luxembourg improving, playing better against Ukraine than against Sweden. Hungary definitely weaker than the year before but can still put together some good scoring moves. Moldova a sad story with several fine forwards playing at top level in Western Europe. Unless they all rally to the cause, they will lose away to Luxembourg and be relegated ending up among the lesser northern European teams. Ukraine will take 5 points off Moldavia while Sweden should also win their first game in the Spring, although it depends on which Hungarian team turns up. This should give a promotion decider in May with Sweden travelling to the Ukraine. This will be the most important rugby game for Sweden in 2019 and I would call upon the Union to start planning for this immediately. Anything less than the best trained, selected and coached Swedish team will not be good enough to beat a Ukrainian team at home, who also have all to play for.