In a year of return to the World Championship, it is yet another proof of the enormous evolution of Portuguese rugby. This Sunday, Portugal concluded the group stage of the Rugby Europe Championship (REC) 2023 with three wins in three games and, in two weeks, will host Spain in the semi-finals of the main competition of Rugby Europe.
Even without important players (Francisco Fernandes, Mike Tadjer, Samuel Marques and Tomás Appleton), the “wolves” were clearly superior to Romania at Estádio do Restelo and, with five trials, secured their fourth victory (38-20) in 28 duels with the Romanians.
After two triumphs conquered without difficulty against Belgium and Poland, the last round of Group B of the REC was the first big test for Portugal in 2023 and, seven months away from playing in France in the World Cup, the Portuguese XV once again showed competence.
Even though they didn’t start well in the match – Romanian center Taylor Gontineac scored the sixth try in three rounds at 2′ -, Portugal always showed more quality than Romania and at half-time, with two tries by Pedro Bettencourt, they were already winning by 14- 10.
Despite being deprived of Jerónimo Portela in the 32nd minute – Nuno Sousa Guedes had to play at “10” -, and a yellow card to Steevy Cerqueira in the 46th minute, which left the “wolves” with one player less for 10 minutes, the Portuguese team increased the gap after José Madeira scored the third Portuguese try and, shortly after, it was Pedro Lucas who, once again, showed an enormous quality in finishing, putting the score at 31-13.
The first time they managed to create an attack platform five meters from the test line, the Romanians put their main weapon into action and, progressing through the forwards, reduced the difference to 11 points (31-20).
However, even changing players in the advanced “pack”, Portugal did not lose control of the match and, in the last move, reached the fifth test, by Duarte Diniz, leaving the final score at 38-20.
With this clear triumph, Portugal closes group B with the maximum score (15 points) and secures the status of host in the semi-final: in two weeks, they will receive Spain. With the defeat, Romania will have to play in Georgia in the other match that will decide who plays in the final, which is scheduled for March 18 or 19 at the Estadio Nuevo Vivero, in Badajoz.