Ireland, Georgia and Portugal all climb the World Rugby Men’s Rankings, while Russia fall to their lowest position in over 14 years.
While there were few surprises in the Six Nations in terms of results with home wins for Ireland and France and a victory for England against the lower-ranked Scotland, the same cannot be said of the Rugby Europe Championship where Romania and Russia were on the wrong side of upsets.
Barely three months since they competed at Rugby World Cup 2019, Russia succumbed to a 38-12 defeat to Belgium in Brussels on Saturday, while Romania went down 22-11 to newly-promoted Portugal in Lisbon.
However, Georgia came through unscathed the following day against a Spain team bidding to create history and playing in front of a sizeable and vocal home crowd in Madrid.
Soso good for Georgia
Spain’s hopes of a record ninth consecutive test victory were in ruins at the break as the Lelos led 23-5, thanks to tries at the start and end of the half from full-back Soso Mamukashvili and one from debut winger Akaki Tabutsadze, plus eight points from the boot of Tedo Abzhandadze.
Los Leones lifted their game after the break but could not add to hooker Marco Pinto’s ninth-minute try until a minute from time when his replacement, Vicente Del Hoyo, also crashed over from the back of a maul.
Defending champions Georgia move above Italy and into 12th position in the rankings as a result of the victory – their 12th in a row in the Rugby Europe Championship.
Italy put in a much-improved performance from the one that saw them lose 42-0 to Wales in Cardiff last weekend in going down 35-22 to France in Paris. The Azzurri did not lose any rating points because of the defeat, due to the large points differential between the two teams, but the 1.07 points awarded to the Lelos was enough for the teams to swap positions.
France remain in eighth place after a mixed bag of a performance which was capped by a fine solo score by replacement scrum-half Baptiste Serin. Teddy Thomas, captain Charles Ollivon, Grégory Alldritt and Romain Ntamack had crossed before him.
Matteo Minozzi scored Italy’s first points this year when he scooted over in the 23rd minute, and he was joined on the scoresheet in the second half by Federico Zani and Mattia Bellini.
Portugal march on
Portugal’s first win over Romania in seven attempts saw them pick up 1.22 points, enough for them to move into the world’s top 20 for the first time since November 2011.
Winger Dany Antunes scored twice in the first half and converted both his own tries as well as kicking a penalty as Os Lobos built up a 17-6 advantage at the break. Romania were once again reliant on the boot of Florin Vlaicu for their points.
Hooker Mike Tadjer effectively made the game safe when he went over in the 51st minute, with the Oaks’ response limited to a 64th-minute try from winger Marius Simionescu. Portugal have now won both their opening games since winning promotion back to the Rugby Europe Championship.
Portugal and Romania are now just one place apart in the rankings and separated by less than three points.
Historic day for Belgium
It was an historic day for Belgium rugby as the Black Devils enjoyed their first-ever victory over Russia.
An upset looked unlikely when tries from winger Vladislav Sozonov and replacement forward Evgeny Elgin put the Bears 12-0 up inside the first half an hour, but the home side roared back to score 38 unanswered points.
Alan Williams knocked over a penalty and then converted a try from hooker Thomas Dienst as Belgium cut the deficit to a couple of points at the break, before prop Maxime Jadot, scrum-half Julien Berger, flanker Jean-Maurice Decubber and replacement forward Mathieu Verschelden added further tries in a dominant second-half display.
The two full rating points awarded to Belgium for the 38-12 victory are not enough for them to improve on 27th place but they are now only 1.32 points behind Brazil. Russia, meanwhile, drop five places to 25th, their lowest position since November 2005.
In the Six Nations, the only change of note came as a result of Ireland’s 24-14 defeat of defending champions Wales in Dublin.
A second consecutive man-of-the-match performance from CJ Stander inspired the Irish, who scored two tries in each half to collect the bonus point.
Jordan Larmour and Tadhg Furlong crossed in the first half before Josh van der Flier and Andrew Conway ensured they finished with all five points.
For Wales, Tomos Williams scored what was arguably the try of the match in the first half but too many handling errors and a determined Irish defence stymied their efforts in attack and they could only add one more try to their tally through Justin Tipuric right at the death.
With Wales’ eight-match winning run in the Championship coming to an end, the teams trade places in the rankings with Ireland now the higher-ranked of the two in fourth position.
Horrendous conditions in Edinburgh made for a difficult afternoon for players and spectators alike at Murrayfield as England ground out a 13-6 win, Ellis Genge’s second-half try proving to be the difference between the sides.
Having picked up a fraction under half a point from their trip north, England close the gap on second-placed New Zealand to 4.3 points.