Russia retain the Rugby Europe Women’s Sevens Grand Prix Series title but there is a new name on the men’s trophy after an historic win for Germany.
With regional Olympic qualifying places already decided, the sole focus of teams competing on the final weekend of the Rugby Europe Sevens Grand Prix Series was on winning silverware – or protecting their status at the top level of the European game – in both the men’s and women’s competitions.
Backing up their fourth-place finish in the opening tournament in Moscow, Germany beat Spain in the final of the Lodz Sevens to claim the overall men’s series title by two points from France, who also narrowly lost out on the women’s title to Russia, this time on points difference, following their defeat to the defending champions in the final of the Kharkiv Sevens. Ireland were rewarded for their consistency with a double bronze.
Germany had to dig deep to come out on top in a hard-fought men’s event that brought narrow wins against Russia (19-17) and Georgia (15-12) before the pool stages concluded with a 28-12 win over England in which Tim Lichtenberg scored a hat-trick.
On day two, Germany’s quarter-final opponents were France, winners of the opening round in Moscow, and, as was the case in all three pool matches, they started slowly and were behind on the scoreboard until finding their stride to win 26-19, Bastian Himmer scoring a try in each half.
Ireland had been something of a bogey team for Germany in recent times, but they recovered from an early setback to win 17-7, a double from Lichtenberg and a late try from Phil Szczesny settling the match in their favour.
Wins over Portugal, Romania and France saw Spain progress to the knockout stages unbeaten. Day two began with a 21-12 quarter-final win over Wales, while Italy were edged out 12-7 in the last four as Spain booked a date with Germany in the final.
The trend of coming from behind continued in the final as Germany recovered from an early setback to take command of the match. Tries from Himmer, Ben Ellermann and Niklas Koch took them into a 21-7 lead before Spain found a response. However, Germany closed out the match with another try for Lichtenberg.
“What a crazy tournament,” stated DRV co-coach Clemens von Grumkov. “With the exception of the final, we did not really show our best performance in any game. But, in the end, everything went in our direction, everything came together.
“This is, of course, a wonderful end to the season after the disappointment over the missed Olympic qualification. We are overjoyed with what we have now achieved as the first German rugby national team.”
RUSSIA REJOICES IN ANOTHER TITLE
While Germany’s success was long-awaited, Russia’s women have grown used to lifting trophies after dominating the series in recent years.
Having won the last four series titles on offer and five in the last six years, the defending champions added another to the collection after reversing the result of the final in Marcoussis at the end of last month with victory over France.
With one tournament win and a runners-up finish apiece and a final tally of 36 points, it took Russia’s superior points difference to separate them from France at the top of the series’ standings.
Russia breezed through the pool stages with wins over the Netherlands (22-12), Belgium (43-0) and England (34-7) to book their place in the knockout stages.
Scotland and then Poland were beaten comfortably in the quarter-final and semi-final respectively to set up with a repeat date with France who had beaten them 15-7 on home soil at the end of last month.
After moving smoothly through the pool stages unbeaten, a narrow 19-14 win over the Netherlands left France one match away from another final and they came up trumps against Ireland, with a first-half hat-trick from Valentine Lothoz hat-trick setting them on the road to a 34-19 victory.
In a final every bit as keenly-fought as the first one between the sides in Marcoussis, Russia scored twice to take a 12-0 lead into half-time. After a third try was disallowed for a knock-on in the build-up, Russia conceded with 90 seconds to go but they managed to close out the remainder of the match with their seven-point cushion intact.
Photo: Rafal Gaglewski