Defending champions France retained the FIRA-AER Euro Beach Cup at the weekend on home sand at Les Sables d’Or beach near Biarritz.
The hosts defeated Russia 3-2 in the thrilling final of the 10-team tournament which also featured England, Portugal, Italy, Georgia, Spain, Romania, Belgium and Ukraine in a region famed for both its Rugby and its beaches.
France kicked off the tournament with a win over Russia and followed up with impressive displays to remain unbeaten on day one and top Pool A from Italy, Georgia, Romania and Belgium while England led Pool B ahead of Portugal, Russia, Spain and Ukraine.
Despite being described as a leisure form of the Game, the second day of competition saw intense competition and some notably tight and entertaining matches, as Belgium drew with Georgia 1-1 and England and Portugal were locked together at 4-4.
Comprehensive wins for England and Russia against Ukraine in Pool B were mirrored in Pool A as France and Italy inflicted heavy defeats on Georgia and Belgium respectively.
Allez Les Bleus
However, England were to fall short in their head-to-head match against Russia in their last pool game and relinquished a first-half lead to a penalty try, eventually losing 4-3 and with it their chance to top the pool.
The result meant that France would face Russia in the final match, just as they had done in the opening fixture. A massive crowd, spurred on by a pre-match giant haka led by former All Black Michael Clamp, contributed to the festival atmosphere with horns and chants of 'Allez Les Bleus'.
The fans were rewarded with an early French try shortly after kick-off following a break on the left wing. A second followed shortly after as France captain Jérémie Ravier finished with a spectacular pirouette over the line to ground the ball.
French dominance was sealed just before half time with a third try, the attack wrong-footing the Russian defence with a dummy pass to score under the beach’s inflatable posts.
But the Russians were not here to make up the numbers and began their amazing fight-back, scoring two tries in quick succession to rattle the French defence and the home support while delighting the neutrals, however the hosts hung on to secure their 3-2 victory.
Unique form of the Game
The penultimate match of the tournament also proved a thriller, Italy drawing 2-2 with Portugal after regular time, resulting in the sudden-death format which sees each team lose a player from the pitch. Whoever scored first would seal victory and an opportunistic take by the Italians near the Portuguese line resulted in a golden try and third place.
England made amends for earlier disappointment by beating Georgia 4-1 in the Plate final while Belgium defeated Ukraine 4-1 to win the Bowl. Romania’s 4-1 victory against Spain secured them seventh place.
IRB Tournaments Manager Philippe Bourdarias, who worked closely with FIRA-AER on this event, was pleased to see the event enjoy such success.
“Recreational forms of Rugby are very important for the Game to flourish, and it has been great to see international teams here this weekend share the enjoyment of the fans in a real festival atmosphere,” said Bourdarias.
“The festival also saw women’s teams competing and a club event as part of the wonderful weekend of Rugby here and we look forward to helping our Member Unions to grow this unique form of the Game.”
For more on the FIRA-AER Euro Beach Rugby Cup 2012 and Beach Rugby Festival, visit www.beachrugbyfestival.com.
For more on the Laws for Modified forms of Rugby including Beach Touch Rugby, see www.irblaws.com.