Sunday, 16 March 2014

Roundup: ENC 1A March 15


A roundup on the final round of ENC fixtures for 2014, including the big Grand Slam decider between Georgia and Romania in Tbilisi.

Embedded image permalink Georgia (16) 22
 Romania (9) 9

Both teams had already booked their place at the World Cup, but there was much at stake with the ENC Grand Slam and easier World Cup pool draw to play for.

The Oaks started positively but after they powered into a 9-3 lead following an impressive maul, Georgia roared on by a passionate loud sell out Mikheil Meskhi crowd took over the game for the last 60 minutes and Romania hardly looked like scoring at all from thereonwards.

Georgia turned up the heat on Romania after a messed up lineout to reduce the deficit. Then following a bizarre bounce of the ball managed to get possession in the Romanian half and produced a play of great wide running rugby, so rarely seen by Georgians. It wasn't solo flashy line breaks, but just basic simple going through the phases with quick ball recycled well and spread wide with Georgia send runners at a disorganised defence. Davit Zirakashvili was the one who went over for the inevitable try.

The Romanians were losing the collision area and the kicking area of the game, they seldom looked like getting a point for much of the last hour of the game as the Georgian crowd cheered their side's way their home.

However for all their dominance, Georgia put surprisingly few points on the board as the Oaks remained feisty until the end and spoilt their plays close to the line, which led to yellow cards for both Stelian Burcea (not releasing tackled player, although mistaken identity) and Valentin Calafeteanu (deliberate knock on) and the Lelos perhaps took their foot off the accelerator and enjoyed the occasion when the match was clearly going their way.

This was one of Georgia's best performances under Milton Haig and credit must be given to the coach who after a slow start has overseen notable improvements in the side since November, following the win over Samoa his side has delivered in two big matches in a row now.

The Lelos now have will have what has historically been an easy World Cup win against the African qualifier, will be targeting a win in their clash against Tonga and get to face the All Blacks for the first time in their history. Romania will head to the harder pool where they will be underdogs in all games, but still could potentially upset Canada like they did in November and they have had success in recent clashes with Italy, whilst France and Ireland are sides they will hope to give competitive games with neither one being dire form for the past 2 years and the other having a dire World Cup record.

For Georgia several players had good games including the back row has played a crucial role in their success over the tournament. Kolelishvili, Gorgodze and Basilaia made plenty of hard yards throughout the match. Special mention to Romania's full back Catalin Fercu who despite his team being outplayed was a standout throughout.

Georgia: 15 M Kvirikashvili (L Malaguradze 61); 11 T Mchedlidze (T Zibzibadze 57), 13 D Kacharava, 12 M Sharikadze, 14 I Machkhaneli (c); 10 L Khmaladze, 9 G Begadze (V Khutsishvili 70); 1 M Nariashvili (A Peikrishvili 57), 2 J Bregvadze (S Mamukashvili 52), 3 D Zirakashvili (L Chilachava 57); 4 K Mikautadze (G Nemsadze 61), 5 L Datunashvili; 6 V Kolelishvili (G Chkhaidze 67), 7 M Gorgodze, 8 D Basilaia.
Try (1): Zirakashvili (27) Conversion (1): Kvirikashvili (27) Penalties (5): Kvirikashvili (7, 25, 40, 51), Malaguradze (66)

Romania: 15 C Fercu; 14 M Lemnaru (C Dinis 70), 13 C Gal, 12 R Dascalu (F Surugiu 61), 11 I Dumitru (D Manole 52); 10 F Vlaicu, 9 V Calafeteanu; 1 M Lazar (A Ursache 61), 2 A Radoi (E Capatana 74), 3 P Ion (H Pungea 74); 4 M Sirbe, 5 V Poparlan; 6 V Lucaci, 7 M Macovei (c), 8 S Burcea.
Penalties (3): Vlaicu (3, 13, 19) Sin Bins: Gál (14), Burcea (48), Calafeteanu (65)

Referee: Luke Pearce (England) | Venue: Mikheil Meskhi Stadium, Tbilisi | Attendance: 27,517

Belgium Belgium (10) 20
 Russia (10) 34

Despite already being relegated, Belgium were still looking to record their first win in the top ENC division. For the first half of their match with Russia, they were in close contention to do so, scoring from a maul from a metre out to give themselves an early lead which they held until just before half time when a Vladimir Ostroushko try levelled the scores.

However the second half was a completely different story, the Black Devils defence wilted as Russia carved it open and ran away with the game. The Bears scored 4 tries in the second half, all simple linebreaks through the Belgian line the pick of which was Vasily Artemyev's try.

Belgium did manage a consolation try in the last minute, again from another maul which has been the source of all of their tries during this tournament.

Despite being left severely behind by the nations ranked in the top 18 of world rugby and suffering large defeats to Georgia and Romania, Russia have managed to win all 6 of their games against the rest of the ENC and will now take the 3 match playoff qualifying route to the World Cup, which they will be firm favourites to do successfully and get to join the pool of death. Belgium will return to ENC 1B and will be disappointed to do so, but can take heart that their average losing margin of 14 has been far lower than previous relegated sides.

Belgium: 15 A Williams; 14 D Haghedooren, 13 G Brébant, 12 G Piron (S Guns 60), 11 S Vocea; 10 S Roos (C Brown 38), 9 H Brouwers; 1 J Massimi (A Cuffolo 40), 2 T Dienst (M Bonnel 72), 3 A Miriallakis (A Scozzari 72); 4 M Verschelden, 5 P Hendrickx (C Nana 53); 6 A Neill (D Eppe 61), 7 M de Molder (J Morelli 43), 8 T de Molder.
Try (1): Brébant (13), Nana (79) Conversions (2): Williams (13, 79) Penalty (1): Williams (52) Drop Goal (1): Williams (28) Sin Bin: Hendrickx (30)

Russia: 15 V Artemyev; 14 A Otrokov, 13 D Gerasimov (A Ryabov 55), 12 A Makovetskiy, 11 V Ostroushko; 10 S Sugrobov (S Yanyushkin 68), 9 A Yanyushkin; 1 G Tsnobiladze (A Volkov 43), 2 V Tsnobiladze (N Gazanov 52), 3 A Igretsov (M Davudov 57); 4 A Voytov (c, A Khudyakov 68), 5 K Kulemin (I Zykov 63); 6 P Butenko, 7 A Garbuzov, 8 A Temnov (P Kvernadze 68).
Tries (6): V Tsnobiladze (18), Ostroushko (38, 74), Makovetskiy (43), Sugrobov (54), Artemyev (66) Conversions (2): Sugrobov (54), Ryabov (66)

Referee: Giuseppe Vivarini (Italy) | Venue: Stade Roi Baudouin, Brussels

 Portugal (18) 24
 Spain (6) 28

In another dead rubber, the Spanish managed an astonishing comeback win to secure the Iberian bragging rights.

Portugal raced ahead into 21-6 lead but managed to blow it in a disastrous last 25 minutes. The Spanish notched up 3 tries and snatched the game from the Lobos grasp.

The win was the Spanish first in Portugal since 1995 and they finish the tournament on a positive note although they have disappointed overall.

Portugal will be glad to see the end of what has been a putrid international season for them. The Lobos have won just 3 games in the last 3 ENC seasons now, and this year's points difference of -56 was their worst for 13 years.

Portugal: 15 N Penha e Costa; 14 G Foro, 13 P Ávila, 12 C Murray, 11 A Aguilar; 10 D Miranda, 9 FP Magalhães (P Leal 62); 1 J Seguardo, 2 J Correia (c), 3 B Rocha (J Almeida 78); 4 E Santos (F Almeida 73), 5 R d'Orey; 6 K da Costa, 7 J Bardy (V Fragoso Mendes 50), 8 V Uva.
Tries (2): Uva (29), Foro (40) Conversion (1): Ávila (30)
 Penalties (4): Ávila (16, 33, 46, 64)

Spain: 15 C Sempere; 14 I Contardi (J Cano 48), 13 D Snee, 12 J Canosa, 11 M Tudela (J Carter); 10 C Malié, 9 P Feijóo; 1 B Auzqui, 2 M Pinto (J Anaya 80), 3 F Sanz (J Salazar 31); 4 D Barrera (J Anaya 64-72), 5 A Bonán (A Blanco 52); 6 G Gibouin, 7 M Cook, 8 F Negrillo (M Roca 47).
Tries (3): Penalty Try (59), Tudela (67), Genua (72)  Conversions (2): Malié (59, 67) Penalties (3): Malié (3, 20, 77) Sin Bin: Pinto (62)

Referee: Laurent Cardona (France) | 
Venue: Estádio Universitário de Lisboa, Lisbon

ENC 2014 Stats:

2014 Final Table

Biggest Win:
35-0: Georgia v Belgium | 34-3: Romania v Russia | 32-6: Romania v Spain | 36-10: Georgia v Russia

Leading Try Scorers:
3: Vladimir Ostroushko (RUS), Merab Kvirikashvili (GEO), Ionut Dumitru (ROM) | 2: 11 players

Leading Point Scorers:
76: Merab Kvirikashvili (GEO) | 56: Florin Vlaicu (ROM) | 40: Pedro Ávila (POR) | 33: Yury Kushnarev (RUS)

Most Tries in a Match:
2: Merab Kvirikashvili (GEO v BEL), Ionut Dumitru (ROM v ESP), Vladimir Ostroushko (RUS v BEL)

Most Points in a Match:
24: Merab Kvirikashvili (GEO v POR) | 18: Yury Kushnarev (RUS v ESP)

Most Cards:
Yellow (2): Mathieu Verschelden (BEL), Marco Pinto (ESP) | Red (1): Kevin da Costa (POR)

Youngest Players:
19: Alejandro Blanco (ESP), Pedro Ávila (POR), Vlad Nistor (ROM) | 20: Bruno Medeiros (POR) + 4 others

Oldest Players:
38: Antonio Aguilar (POR) | 37: Sébastien Guns (BEL), Javier Salazar (ESP) | 36: Cyril Nana (BEL)

2013/14 Home/Away World Cup qualification final table

Biggest Win:
61-18: Georgia v Spain (2013) | 35-0: Georgia v Belgium (2014) | 34-3: Romania v Russia (2014)

Leading Try Scorers:
4: Vladimir Ostroushko (RUS), Tedo Zibzibadze, Mamuka Gorgodze (GEO) | 3: 6 players

Leading Point Scorers:
132: Florin Vlaicu (ROM), Merab Kvirikashvili (GEO) | 67: Alan Williams (BEL) | 43: Pedro Leal (POR)

Most Tries in a Match:
2: 8 Players

Most Points in a Match:
24: Florin Vlaicu (ROM v RUS 2013), Merab Kvirikashvili (GEO v POR 2014)

Most Cards:
Yellow (4): Mathieu Verschelden (BEL) | Red (1): 3 players

Youngest Players:
19: Alejandro Blanco (ESP), Pedro Ávila (POR), Merab Sharikadze (GEO), Vlad Nistor (ROM) + 1 other

Oldest Players:
38: Antonio Aguilar (POR) | 37: Sébastien Guns (BEL), Javier Salazar (ESP) | 36: Cyril Nana (BEL) + 1 other


  1. great article! you are doing much better job at reporting the tournament than most of international sports pages

  2. He's pretty much the only person reporting the tournament professionally.
    Others Get Georgian/Romanian capital correctly in 6 out of 10 tries.