Sweden, winners of the first leg of the European Trophy in Prague, were always expected to strong competitors for one of the promotion places to next year’s Grand Prix, but when it came to who would join them no-one suggested Poland.
Poland have a good record in the European sevens rugby. They have reached the semi-finals in the past, and have always been a competitive team, but all eyes were on Germany and Scotland – relegated from the 2015 Grand Prix – as well as Sweden for the crucial top two positions.
Furthermore, one effect of extending the Trophy from a single tournament to a series of two was expected to be a reduction in surprise results, such as Finland’s promotion last year at the expense of the Swedes. Over two tournaments unexpected results would even themselves out.
So Poland’s place is next year’s Grand Prix is fully deserved. They met all three of the “favourites”, beating Germany three times over the two tournaments and Scotland once, in the semi-final of this weekend’s second leg in Esztergom. Sweden in the final proved too strong, but by that point it hardly mattered.
Sweden themselves were a cut above the rest this year, winning in both Prague and Esztergom. This weekend only Germany, in the semi-final, got within 20 points of them. There have been some difficult years for Swedish rugby, after the highpoint of their appearance in the 2010 World Cup, so it is good to see one of the pioneers of the women’s game back at the top table.
It almost goes without saying that both they and Poland will have some serious work to do to maintain that Grand Prix place, though in World Cup year and with the 2020 Olympics far away 2017 will be a very good year for a new team to consolidate a place in the top division.
As for the rest of the Esztergom Sevens, for a long time Scotland looked like repeating their appearance in the Prague final. In retrospect, perhaps, the tough battle they had Romania in their pool game may have suggested that it would not be easy, and Hungary, with home support, proved difficult quarter-final opponents. A semi-final draw with Poland promised to be a tough, so it was perhaps less a surprise that Scotland lost, more a shock at how one-sided the scoreline was at the end. 31-0.
Despite missing out on the final and returning to the Grand Prix, Germany had a good tournament in Esztergom, very nearly gaining revenge over their Polish rivals in the pool, only going down 12-10, before pushing Sweden harder than anyone else has in the series. Third place was a deserved outcome for the weekend, and fourth overall.
Another team leaving Esztergom delighted with the outcome were Israel, promoted only last year from what is now the Conference. We have covered the challenges they face in preview articles, so a quarter-final place after beating Moldova in the pool (the only pool game won by a lower seed) was received with great delight, guaranteeing as it did a place in next year’s trophy.
At the other end of the tournament Denmark and Norway were eventually the teams that go down, a little unfortunate for Norway at least who drew in their pool with eventual bowl winners Czech Republic. One more score in that game would have given them a better bowl semi-final, and would probably have had them avoiding the drop, Such are the tight margins, and at times cruelty, of international sevens.
Pool games: Poland 36- 7 Israel; Germany 17- 7 Moldova; Scotland 27- 0 Norway; Romania 12- 10 Czech Republic; Sweden 43- 0 Denmark; Switzerland 21- 12 Hungary; Poland 26- 0 Moldova; Germany 17- 7 Israel; Scotland 14- 5 Czech Republic; Romania 14- 7 Norway; Switzerland 34- 19 Denmark; Sweden 19- 0 Hungary; Poland 12- 10 Germany; Moldova 7- 12 Israel; Scotland 10- 7 Romania; Czech Republic 7- 7 Norway; Sweden 28- 5 Switzerland; Hungary 26- 7 Denmark
Quarter-finals: Sweden 24-0 Israel; Scotland 12-5 Hungary; Poland 26-10 Switzerland; Romania 0-22 Germany
Bowl semi-finals: Czech Republic 29- 0 Denmark; Norway 10- 12 Moldova
Plate semi-finals: Israel 5- 12 Romania; Hungary 27- 12 Switzerland
Cup semi-finals: Sweden 14- 5 Germany; Scotland 0- 31 Poland
11th place: Denmark 0- 17 Norway
Bowl final: Czech Republic 7- 5 Moldova
7th place: Israel 12- 38 Switzerland
Plate final: Romania 0- 17 Hungary
3rd place: Germany 20- 12 Scotland
Cup final: Sweden 25- 5 Poland
Final series ranking: 1. Sweden; 2. Poland; 3, Scotland; 4, Germany; 5. Romania; 6. Hungary; 7. Switzerland; 8. Czech Republic; 9. Israel; 10. Moldova; 11. Norway; 12. Denmark