Belgium beat Poland 26-24 in a gripping final of the Division A European Rugby Sevens Championship at the Wingate Institute for Physical Education on Saturday. The Israeli team failed to live up to pre-tournament expectations, finishing 11th in the 12-team lineup with a 19-10 win over Serbia in its last game.
The more than 2,000 spectators who turned up for the weekend rugby festival at the Wingate Institute were treated to a fast and furious program of high-quality seven-a-side rugby, including some tense games that were decided in the dying seconds.
The final was a particularly anxious affair, as the tournament favorite Belgium fell behind early to the surprisingly fleet-footed Poles, only to claw their way back for the two-point victory.
The Netherlands finished the tournament in third place, after beating Moldova 28-12 in the bronze medal game.
For the Israeli team, this was a disappointing weekend. Israel lost by narrow margins to Poland (15-14) and Sweden (17-12) in the group stage, but buoyed by its vociferous fans found the extra energy to overcome the Serbs.
“This is the first time that we’ve hosted an event of this scale,” Israel Rugby Union President Menachem Ben-Menachem noted. “Over 2,000 people came to enjoy the rugby and the wonderful atmosphere of this sporting culture.”
“But in terms of results, we are disappointed,” he said. “We had higher expectations, and didn’t expect to finish so low down the rankings. It is important to remember that building a team is a long-term project. This weekend we paid expensive tuition fees that will stand us in good stead in the coming years.”
Sweden won the Bowl competition (for teams that failed to advance from the group stage), finishing ninth overall. Denmark took the middle-tier Plate competition, finishing fifth overall.
The second round of the competition will be held in Brussels, Belgium, in three weeks, with promotion to Europe’s top Grand Prix level at stake.