Sweden lifted the Cup at the first leg of the new-look European Trophy at the weekend, defeating Scotland in the final.
With the top two teams winning a chance to play in next season’s Grand Prix, while the bottom two face relegation to the third level of European rugby – now called the “Conference", the result provides a major boost for the Swedes with the second leg taking place in Estergom (Hungary) from 9-10 July.
Scotland - minus leading players Steph Johnson (with Great Britain) and Jade Konkel (injured) enjoyed a superb passage to the final defeating Israel, the Czech Republic, and Switzerland in the pool stages before overcoming the Czechs again on day two and overcoming Germany narrowly in the semi-finals.
Sweden though, who had lost one pool game to Hungray and who just made it past a dogged Romanian side, saved their best till last and were superb in the final with their 34-15 win securing a comprehensive victory to end an excellent weekend for a nation that has decided to focus most of its efforts on sevens.
Romania lifted the Plate title, beating the Swiss in the final, while Moldova took the Bowl.
No game at this level is completely predictable, and any teams in the top half of the seeding is quite capable of beating any other. Fitness levels of teams across the tournament were impressive, and at times the only difference seemed to be experience.
The tournament was expected to be between Scotland, Germany and Sweden, but no-one seems to have told Poland, who had their best ever tournament, topping their pool, winning five out of six games (including two wins over Germany) to finish a very strong third.
The other highlight of Day One was the performance of Hungary, who beat eventual winners Sweden but then surprisingly lost to Moldova meaning that their lost out on a three-way tie at the top of Pool C. The resulting tough quarter-final draw resulted in their ending in the plate, but even so a 7th place will have delighted the 9th seeds who might have expected to be more concerned with relegation, but whose position now looks very safe for next year.
Germany will be particularly disappointed with only fourth place after their loss to Poland on Day One resulted in their meeting Scotland in the semi-finals, where they lost narrowly before going down to the Poles again.
That tough semi-final may have just given Sweden the edge as they had less trouble seeing off Poland in their semi-final and in the final they were able to take advantage of mistakes from the tiring Scots to win 34-15. Moa Wejle was ruled of playing at the last moment through injury, and put down their win to the preparation sthe team made. “We have trained together quite intensely the last six months,” she told us, “and we have all invested a lot. It is always rewarding when it all comes together and hard work pays off . I'm immensely proud of the team and we will continue upwards and onward from here.”
The Scotland Coach Graham Shiel was also not too disappointed by the result.: “Unfortunately the tables were turned in our last game. It was noticeable that Sweden had more fire power and they took control of the game to lead 10-19 at half time. In the second half we tried to apply pressure but they were a better team at the end of the day. We are obviously disappointed that we didn’t bring the trophy home, but the loss has made the squad are even more determined to win the next leg in Hungary.
Away from the top other teams had much to be pleased about. Newly promoted Israel were delighted to make the bowl final: “Our main goal this year is to adjust and stay in this division,” says Liat Geller.. “We've seen many teams who couldn't survive the transit and we're aiming to learn very quickly and this is really what this first tournament was. We came without several key players due to injuries, so we're very happy with our final result.”
Pool A: Scotland 33-10 Israel; Switzerland 29-10 Czech Republic; Switzerland 26-10 Israel; Scotland 19-0 Czech Republic; Scotland 47-7 Switzerland; Czech Republic 29-0 Israel
Pool B: Germany 38-7 Denmark; Poland 31-12 Norway; Germany 24-5 Norway; Poland 45-0 Denmark; Germany 17-19 Poland; Norway 17-19 Denmark
Pool C: Sweden 34-0 Moldova; Romania 24-5 Hungary; Sweden 12-17 Hungary; Romania 24-10 Moldova; Sweden 10-7 Romania; Hungary 22-12 Moldova
Scotland 24-5 Czech Republic; Poland 26-10 Hungary; Sweden 21-7 Switzerland; Germany 22-0 Romania
Bowl: Denmark 5-10 Israel; Norway 5-10 Moldova
Plate: Czech Republic 0-5 Romania; Hungary 12-22 Switzerland
Cup: Scotland 17-12 Germany; Poland 0-29 Sweden
11th place: Denmark 22-26 Norway
Bowl: Israel 0-14 Moldova
7th place: Czech Republic 10-21 Hungary
Plate: Romania 19-5 Switzerland
3rd place: Germany 5-12 Poland
Cup: Scotland 15-34 Sweden