Teenage kicks send Georgia U18s through to Euro semis


By Worldrugby.com

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Georgia and Italy make history in the Rugby Europe Under-18 Championship, while France get the chance to avenge their recent Six Nations Under-20 title-decider defeat to England in Tuesday's elite semi-finals.

Hot on the heels of the senior side’s fifth straight European Nations Cup triumph, the Junior Lelos have added to the feel-good factor presently found in Georgian rugby with an historic first-ever victory over Ireland in the Rugby Europe Under-18 Championship.

Georgia held Ireland Schools to an 8-8 draw and then beat them 3-1 in a dramatic ‘best of five’ penalty shootout to set up a last four meeting with Italy in Albi on Friday.

Georgia were first on the scoreboard when scrum-half Gela Aprasidze kicked a third-minute penalty. But Ireland Schools captain Bill Johnston struck back with a three-pointer of his own before winger Robert Lyttle touched down after 15 minutes to hand the Irish an 8-3 lead at the interval.

In a game of few chances, replacement front-rower Levan Tchavtchavadze scored the only points of the second half five minutes after the re-start to bring about the game's dramatic finale.

In the shootout, Shota Areshidze, Miriani Modebadze and Davit Modzgvrishvili were on target with Georgia’s first three attempts at goal, after Conor Dean had put Ireland 1-0 up. Captain Bill Johnston and Tim Foley missed their penalties so when Calvin Nash’s effort struck the upright and bounced away from goal Georgia were able to celebrate reaching their first-ever semi-final.

“This was a historic victory, we’ve not achieved such a result in age-grade international rugby before,” said Lasha Khurtsidze, head of International and Public Relations.

“We’ve beaten Italy twice since entering the elite group in 2012, but today we’ve reached the top four for the first time which reflects the ongoing progress being made at youth level and Georgian rugby in general.”

David Chavleishvili, the Georgian under-18 head coach, added: “Everyone played to the best of their ability and fought to the end. We can now look forward to a tough match against Italy.”

Italy went into their match against Wales in confident mood after achieving wins over Ireland, France, Argentina, Uruguay and USA in the last 12 months, and they were first on the board when flanker Mattia Zago crashed over for a try that full-back Massimo Cioffi converted. Wales pulled three points back through the boot of fly-half Arwel Robson but they were unable to take advantage of prop Daniele Rimpeli’s sin-binning on 33 minutes and gap stayed at four points at the break.

Wales flanker Nathan Hudd put Wales in front for the first time in the match when he scored a try shortly after Italy were restored to 15 men, but the lead lasted only six minutes after Zago grabbed his second try and Cioffi converted.

Given renewed vigour by a raft of changes, Wales struck back again on 64 minutes through replacement winger Jack Evans. Crucially the conversion was missed and Italy held on for a nail-biting 14-13 victory.



Earlier, holders England began their title defence with an emphatic 13-try, 85-5 win against Portugal. Right winger Gabriel Ibitoye blazed the way for the five-time winners, touching down four times as England set up a semi-final showdown with hosts France.

England under-18 coach John Fletcher has rung the changes for Tuesday’s match in Blagnac, with only a third of the starting line-up against Portugal keeping their place.

“It’s important for us to carry the momentum from the Portugal fixture into the game against France. I thought we showed real positivity to go out there and play like we did,” said Fletcher.

“France will provide strong opposition tomorrow so we’ll need to continue to improve and to step up another level and I’ve every confidence that the team can do that.”

France threatened to run riot against Scotland after scoring their first try with the game only two minutes old. However heroic defence from the Scots kept their line intact until full-back Arthur Retiere crossed right on the stroke of half-time for a 15-3 lead.

Scotland hopes of making an improbable comeback heightened when Robbie Nairn raced through for a try converted by Blair Kinghorn.to close the gap to just five points. But France had the final word when scrum-half Baptiste Couilloud scored just past the hour mark, with Thomas Darmon’s second conversion making the final scoreline, 22-10.

As well as the two semi-finals on Tuesday, Ireland will face Wales in Balma as Scotland take on Portugal in Gaillac as they battle to secure the best placing between fifth and eighth.

Running alongside the elite competition are the Division A and B Championships. In Division A, Russia despatched Sweden 72-0 to set up a semi-final showdown with Germany, who overcame Poland, while Romania take on Belgium in the other semi-final after wins over the Netherlands and Spain respectively.

The last four line-up in Division B sees the Czech Republic play Ukraine and Switzerland take on Lithuania.

Georgian time


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