Sweden beat Spain to qualify for World Cup

(IRB.COM) Thursday 21 May 2009

 Sweden beat Spain to qualify for World Cup
Sweden celebrate their qualification for England 2010 - Photo: Fredrik Wicksell / www.klubblokalen.se

Sweden have booked their place at Women's Rugby World Cup 2010 after proving their defeat of Italy was no fluke with a hard fought 11-6 victory over Spain on day two of the Women's European Trophy on Wednesday.

The Swedes had gone into the match again as underdogs with Spain, who played in the last Women's Rugby World Cup in Canada, expected to make it two wins from two after an emphatic 76-0 defeat of Germany on day one.

However to the delight of the home crowd in Enkoping it was Sweden who emerged victorious thanks to Rebecka Lind's try seven minutes from time, the pressure telling with the ball going loose in the in-goal area and the replacement hooker grounding the ball first.

The match had been tight throughout with the sides locked at 3-3 at half time with Swedish captain Ulrika Andersson-Hall kicking the hosts ahead with a 15th minute penalty, but centre Marina Bravo's late penalty cancelled that out.

Winning is what counts

Early pressure from Spain in the second half gave Bravo the chance to edge her side ahead, but the loss of prop Sara de la Llama to the sin-bin revitalised the Swedish team and within minutes they were level again with Andersson-Hall's second penalty.

Sweden began to ring the changes and with both sides playing some good rugby with a lot of heart and passion it was unclear just who inch closer to qualifying for the World Cup.

The loss of wing Berta García to the sin-bin did not help Spain's cause and the pressure ultimately told, resulting in Lind's try and ensuring that come the final whistle it was Sweden celebrating.

"Today was the first time we played the game for the full 80 minutes - solid defence, not many mistakes and the team really performed," explained Sweden coach Andy Tither.

"There were a few misses, but at this level that is not what counts, the result and winning is what counts. I am very content with the girls, the game and the team spirit in the squad."

Italy bounce back

Germany have found life hard-going in the tournament and, despite an improved performance from their opening loss to Spain, they found a hard-working Italian side simply too strong in the other Pool B encounter on Wednesday, losing 47-0 to leave them still to score a point.

Italy bounced back from their defeat by Sweden to lead 23-0 at half time, Veronica Schiavon kicking two penalties before centres Silvia Peron and captain Paola Zangirolami, along with number 8 Martina Barbini crossed for tries.

Peron grabbed her second try within a minute of the restart before second row Lucia Gai, prop Maria Sanfilippo and scrum half Sara Barattin added their names to the scoresheet by the hour mark. Germany though defended well and these proved to be the final scores.

Sweden will be joined at England 2010 by whoever emerges victorious from the Scotland v Netherlands match on Saturday after both kept their try-lines intact in beating Belgium and Russia respectively.

Scotland prepared for anything

Scotland dominated every aspect of play with their pressure and intensive rucking forcing the Belgians backwards and not allowing them any time when they had the ball, but the young side will benefit from the experiences learned in Sweden.

The Six Nations side were ahead within the opening minute, full back Lucy Millard touching down for the first try and then adding another as flanker Donna Kennedy grabbed a first half hat-trick in her 102nd Test, having come out of international retirement for the tournament.

Leading 52-0 at half time the result was beyond doubt, but the young Belgians restricted Scotland to just three more tries - two of them for Millard and the other for replacement Emma Evans - to ultimately lose 71-0 in Stockholm.

"We are very content with the game in full. We come here and play good rugby, score a lot of points and get all the girls going. It is not easy to keep the spark through the whole game, but as a whole we are very content," said Scotland head coach Jamie Dempsey.

"It will be a good and heard game against Holland, so we must be prepared for anything."

Russian pride shines through

One player that Scotland will certainly have to be wary off in the pool decider with the Netherlands is Kelly van Harskamp, the wing having followed up her seven-try haul in their 100-0 defeat of Belgium with a hat-trick in a 34-0 win over Russia.

The Dutch had been expected to wrack up the points against Russia on the back of their 84-0 defeat by Scotland, but roared on by some vocal supporters the Russians tackled as though their lives depended on it to keep the score down.

It took 17 minutes for the opening score, centre Marlieke Broer crossing with the Netherlands going in leading 17-0 at half time after Van Harskamp - a member of the Dutch squad at RWC Sevens 2009 in Dubai - also scoring a brace.

The Russians kept up their relentless tackling after the break and it was the 54th minute before Netherlands increased their advantage through wing Wikke Tuinhout's try. Van Harskamp and scrum half Johanna van Rossum also crossed for tries before the final whistle.

Worryingly for Dutch coach and former Botswana international Gareth Gilbert a couple of injuries suffered against Russia which could rule players out for the winner takes all match against Scotland.

"We can reach the finals, but we made too many mistakes. We dropped a lot of ball and ran in the wrong areas the whole game," admitted Gilbert. "We are happy about the win, but there are a few things to straighten out.

"They [Scotland] have their strength and weaknesses, just like us. There are two very good teams that will meet and it could go either way.

"We have what it takes to win, we can play good rugby, score a lot of points and play entertaining rugby. This is something we hope to show against Scotland on Saturday."