France and Ireland will contest the FIRA-AER European Under 18 Championship final for the second year in a row after they overcame host nation Italy and England respectively in the semi-finals on Wednesday.
A penalty shootout was needed to determine the champions in 2007 and France will be hoping to retain their title without such a tense finale when the sides meet at the Stadio Comunale di Monigo – the home of Benetton Treviso – on Saturday.
Rédouane Boussetta, Benjamin Petre and Gilles Bosch scored France’s three tries as the defending champions came from behind to beat Italy 22-15 at Casale sul Sile in Piacenza after centre Tommaso Benvenuti had kicked his side into the lead with five penalties.
The other semi-final in a sunny San Dona’ di Piave was a closer affair with Kieran Brookes scoring the only try of the match as Ireland again ended England’s hopes of making the final with an 8-3 victory, just as they had done in 2007 by winning 10-7.
England and Italy will now meet in the third place playoff on Saturday in Treviso, while Romania and Georgia will face each other in the fifth place playoff after they overcame Romania 24-12 and Russia 25-6 respectively.
Those defeats mean that whoever loses the seventh place playoff between Russia and Spain at Villorba will be relegated to Group B for next year’s FIRA-AER European Under 18 Championship with either Belgium or Poland taking their place.
Promotion and relegation at stake
Belgium and Poland will meet in the Group B final at San Dona’ di Piave in Venice on Friday. The Belgians ended Portugal’s hopes of an immediate return to Group A with a 31-22 win in their semi-final, while Poland edged the other by a single point – 8-7 – against Germany.
The two other ranking games in Group B played on Tuesday saw the Netherlands beat Lithuania 20-12 and Ukraine edge the Czech Republic 25-23. This means that Lithuania and the Czech Republic will face each other with the loser relegated to Group C in 2009.
Hungary or Switzerland will be the side replacing them after both won their semi-finals. The Hungarians ended Bulgaria’s hopes of promotion with a 29-8 victory, while Switzerland scraped home 26-25 against Sweden.
The playoff to avoid relegation will be between Denmark and Israel after they lost to Latvia 24-7 and Austria 22-5 respectively in the fifth to eighth ranking games. They will be replaced by either Luxembourg or Serbia from Group D.
The six sides in Group D were split into two pools with Luxembourg finishing top of Pool A following their 34-6 defeat of Croatia on Wednesday. Serbia are yet to concede a point after beating Moldova 15-0 to top Pool B, having already beaten Slovenia 58-0.
The third place playoff will be between Bosnia & Herzegovina and Slovenia, while Moldova and Croatia will be seeking their first victory when they contest the fifth place playoff.
All the games can be followed on the FIRA-AER website – www.fira-aer-rugby.com.