Georgia, Portugal, Romania, and Spain claim wins after four exciting round one clashes.
Two hat-tricks, more than a dozen impressive clean-breaks, a bunch of spectacular tries, and the sheer brilliance of the most exciting players in the Rugby Europe Championship. This was what happened in Round One of the 2023 competition, with Georgia, Portugal, Romania, and Spain claiming wins in an exciting start to this European tournament.
Here are our three best moments of the past weekend, with a mesmerising Dutch try to sit at the top.
Read more: Rugby Fixtures
MOMENT 1: The first start for Luka Matkava (Georgia)
Do you remember Luka Matkava? The youngster who slotted that match-winning penalty kick in Cardiff back in November 2022? The 21-year-old fly-half earned his first-ever start for Georgia over the weekend, helping the champions to start their 2023 campaign in the best possible manner. The Lelos crossed the whitewash 11 times, defeating Germany 75-12 in Tbilisi.
Related: Will Georgia dominate the Rugby Europe Championship again?
Matkava was instrumental in most of his team’s tries, building quick phases or supplying his side with swift and wide ball that opened gaps everywhere for Georgia to score points. And what better way to finish off an impressive round one than watching that assist to Akaki Tabutsadze’s hat-trick try again, with Matkava sending a guided rocket into his winger’s hands?
Now, imagine a backline lead by Gela Aprasidze, Luka Matkava, and Davit Niniashvili… spicy, isn’t it?
MOMENT 2: Rodrigo Marta scores his tenth try in the REC (Portugal)
With 21 tries in 26 caps, ten of which were dotted down in Rugby Europe Championship matches, Rodrigo Marta is one of the best Portuguese players at the moment, as seen against Belgium last weekend.
The winger ran more than 150 metres, broke the line five times, and beat 11 tacklers, paving the way for five of Portugal’s eight tries in their first game of the REC 2023.
He scored his own try in the tenth minute, the winger’s brilliant run for Portugal’s first five points was just pure delight, ditching a tackler with a decisive hand-off before stepping up a gear or two.
Related: Portugal qualify for Rugby World Cup 2023
Marta is a synonym for joy (or rather, should be), and the speedster is only getting started on the Test match stage.
MOMENT 3: Van Dijk wriggles his way to an incredible try (Netherlands)
To wrap up the weekend, Spain welcomed the Netherlands to Madrid in a match that was contested until the last minute. Despite ultimately losing 28-20, Wolf Van Dijk’s try helped to build some momentum for the Dutch after the break.
The back rower took his chance after a maul, and… well, you have to watch it more than once to marvel at how that risk paid off. In a heated contest where both sides traded some gut-wrenching tackles, and tried to start a new chapter, Van Dijk’s try is quite the statement on why we should take the Netherlands seriously – as Spain did – and expect interesting things from them.
For now, just delight in one of the best tries of round one, and maybe of this year’s competition.
Rugby Europe Championship: A moment for life
Away from the in-game moments, there was another that deserves to be added to this list: the moment Georgia’s Nodar Cheishvili proposed to his future wife. What better stage than a rugby pitch surrounded by friends?
Download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.
Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.