Sport: Despite disappointing losses, the Grand Duchy squad managed to climb up European tables.
With Rugby Sevens as a new sport to make its debut in the Olympic Games in Rio, it was appropriate that Luxembourg should make its debut in the European championships in Vichy for under-19 players a memorable occasion.
Entering the competition in 16th and last position, and in a very difficult Pool ‘A’ with France, Italy and Germany on Day 1, Luxembourg suffered three large defeats, I used those games as information gathering for the players, and experience and preparation for Day 2 where final positions are decided.
Taking on France
Playing defending champions France first up at 09.00 in the morning was definitely an eye opener for all players with everyone getting a run in the 57-0 defeat. Italy in the second game was slightly better as a fine try was scored by Charlie Stone and an equally fine conversion by Daniel Ascoli from the sideline earned respect for the Young Lions.
The final game against Germany, who had defeated Italy earlier in the day also resulted in a 50 point loss, this time without scoring, and the boys although surprised by the intensity of the opposition, who all run Sevens Academies allowing their players to specialise, were confident of better performances for the second day.
And so it proved with a fantastic start against Hungary, who had defeated Lithuania on the first day and finished third in Pool ‘B’, winning 40-7 with some wonderful play. All the Luxembourg team played well and showed some fine skills and patience, as well as trust in each other; these are the hallmarks of the abbreviated version of rugby, where the games only last seven minutes each half.
The second match on Sunday was against Israel and Luxembourg started slowly, too slowly, and conceded three early tries before striking back with two fine efforts and with the score at 21-14 the game ended, consigning Luxembourg into the 11th place playoff against Moldova.
Before this game was able to start a horrendous storm arrived and the authorities closed the programme for 30 minutes until all the lightening had passed, and the rain abated.
A fine game ensued and Moldova scored first, then Luxembourg scored twice before another from Moldova. Ascoli converted Luxembourg’s but the second Moldovan kick hit the post and bounced away. Luxembourg led 14-12, but were unable to withstand a final Moldova surge which saw a tired player fall off an easy tackle and Moldova sprinted away for the winning try at 14-17 and awarding 12th place to Luxembourg. This although disappointing was very satisfying as Luxembourg does not yet have a serious Sevens programme and all the boys are at the end of a very tough 15 a side programme, therefore unable to train to the intensity required to be seriously competitive, yet still leave the tournament as the most improved nation there.
European ranking raised by four places, with two one score loses on Day 2, was a fine outcome and assures Luxembourg participation for the future. A genuine legacy from the debutants.
The team was: Gareth Geoffreys, Rob Hopwood, Daniel Ascoli, Charlie Stone, Eichi Teramachi, David Wright, Sean Ferreira, Joseph Callies, James Hornsby, Sacha Ernstberger, Adrien Amouyal and Justin Seghers. Managers: Luca Ascoli and Physio Tertius Barnard.