FIRA have confirmed that Finland and Norway will both return to Division A of the European Sevens championship next year, having reached the final of the Division B tournament, played in Bratislava this weekend
There had been some confusion about promotion throughout the tournament. In 2011, when the tournaments were last played (last year the European women’s sevens was played to a special format for World Cup qualification), FIRA introduced a two up, two down policy between the three divisions, and it has been assumed that this would continue this year.
However, just before today’s final between Norway and Finland, it was stated that only the winner would be promoted. The result was an incredibly tense battle between these two near neighbours. Finland – who began as favourites, having been a Top 12 team only two years ago – seized the initiative and seemed to have the game won when they went 20-0 up early in the second half, but Norway fought back with two tries and the game seemed to be swinging their way. However, the Finns hung on and a fifth try made the outcome certain.
The result was joy for Finland, and devastation for Norway – who thought that their massive 45-0 semi-final win over Bulgaria had given them promotion. Then the news came through that both finalists would, after all, be promoted – result, elation!
This exciting final was the climax to a fascinating tournament played in ideal conditions for sevens. Pool A had been expected to be a battle mainly between Bulgaria, Latvia and hosts Slovakia – but the Israeli women’s team had other ideas. Placed last in their World Cup qualifier last year, Israel were the surprise of the competition. Having lost their opening game to Bulgaria, they went on to win their next four games - including a vital 15-7 win over Latvia, coming back from being 7-5 down at half-time - and thus qualified for the semi-finals, alongside the unbreaten Bulgarians, who were surprisingly held to a 14-14 draw by Andorra.
Pool B had not only brought together Finland and Norway, but also Malta – who have a good history at sevens – and complete unknown Turkey. Europe’s newest women’s team lost their opening game to Malta, but learnt quickly and won their next two games, which meant that after three rounds they were in second place in the pool.
However, in their final two games, Finland and Norway were too strong. It was these two that topped the pool, with the help of comfortable wins over Malta, going on to meet again the final.
* Ukraine won the Women's Shield at the Amsterdam Sevens last weekend. Completed the day after the IRB Women's World Series, Ukraine beat Germany 36-0 in the final. The tournament also included Belgium (who reached the semi-finals), Georgia, Switzerland, Czech Republic and a Dutch Development team. Video of the final.
* Belgium also reached the semi-finals in another tournament, played midweek. The Central 7s in Paris also included Tunisia, who are preparing for the World Cup. The Belgians finished third and Tunisia fifth overall. The two met in the pool stages, Tunisia winning 17-10. The tournament was won by a French Universities selection.