As the favourites fell by the wayside, Georgia and Turkey fought through to win promotion to the 2019 European Conference at this weekend’s Zagreb 7s.
Georgia came from behind to beat Turkey 17-12 in the final of the European Conference in Zagreb on Saturday. Although both teams were assured of promotion it was still a nervy final, Turkey taking the lead twice, only to be pulled by the Georgians. Entering the final minute Georgia’s third try finally put them ahead, they hung on for the tense final 30 seconds after the restart, sparking huge celebrations at the final whistle.
Georgia have been playing sevens since 2010 but, apart from couple of years at the second level between 2013 and 2014, have spent all of that time in at the third level. Last year they just missed promotion, going down to Austria 10-7 in the semi-finals.
This year they saved the best for last. Having made the quarter-finals as runners-up in Pool C, being well-beaten by Denmark in the pool, they sneaked past Slovakia 7-5 in the last eight. Only in the semi-finals did they hit their stride, winning the crucial promotion decider against Bulgaria 19-5 to set up the final against Turkey.
Georgia may not have started as one of the favourites, but as they were third last year their success was not entirely unexpected. Turkey, on the other hand, did not enter last year and so were seeded 12th this time.
However, they saw off top seeds Malta in their opening game and made the last eight despite losing to Bulgaria in their second match. This set up a match against Denmark – who again this year seemed the strongest team after the first day, but again slipped up on Day Two, losing 19-14 to Turkey. Croatia – who had also had a good first day – faced Turkey next, and again the Turks just edged the game, 12-10 in this case. For both Denmark and Croatia these were the only defeats they suffered across the whole weekend.
Turkey are therefore promoted for the first time to the European Trophy.
Pool A Malta 7-17 Turkey; Bulgaria 19-22 Andorra; Malta 17-12 Andorra; Bulgaria 27-12 Turkey; Andorra 7-22 Turkey; Malta 14-17 Bulgaria
Pool B Moldova 5-21 Lithuania; Croatia 31-0 Slovakia; Moldova 19-10 Slovakia; Croatia 26-0 Lithuania; Slovakia 31-0 Lithuania; Moldova 0-31 Croatia
Pool C Georgia 50-10 Slovenia; Denmark 29-0 Luxembourg; Georgia 24-0 Luxembourg; Denmark 40-0 Slovenia; Slovenia 12-17 Luxembourg; Georgia 0-17 Denmark
Quarter-Final Bulgaria 19-7 Moldova; Croatia 17-12 Malta; Denmark 14-19 Turkey; Slovakia 5-7 Georgia
9th-12th Place Semi-Final Slovenia 5-17 Luxembourg; Andorra 17-5 Lithuania
5th-8th Place Semi Final Moldova 12-5 Slovakia; Malta 0-40 Denmark
Semi-Final Bulgaria 5-19 Georgia; Croatia 10-12 Turkey
11th Place Match Slovenia 5-17 Lithuania
9th Place Match Luxembourg 5-12 Andorra
7th Place Match Slovakia 14-17 Malta
5th Place Match Moldova 0-22 Denmark
3rd Place Match Bulgaria 7-38 Croatia
Final Georgia 17-12 Turkey