Prior to the final round of matches, all eight nations involved in the U19 European Championships attended an embassy reception in Belgrade and spent time together, in the lead up to finals day tomorrow (Saturday).
After beating Wales 48-4 in the semis, England take on France, who triumphed 38-6 over Scotland in the final.
As the Welsh were swept aside, full back Curtis Teare continued his good form for England with a hat trick and Ben Selby posted a brace. “I’m very proud of my boys,” commented Lions’ head coach, Allan Coleman. “They put in a massive effort against a very good Welsh team and we are very happy with both performance and result. We have the utmost respect for the French and will need to improve further and be at our best to beat them.”
For the French, in their win over the Bravehearts, Thomas Lagan scored a try double and Thimothe Bertrand notched up 12 points with one touchdown and four perfect conversions. “We played well and did a lot of things right,” noted their General Manager, Florian Chautard. “We still think we can score more points so we will take this forward to the final.”
France have been in both the previous European youth level deciders. Staging the inaugural tournament in Barcares near Perpignan, in 2006, as hosts they also won the final, sweeping aside England in Perpignan with a team that contained current Catalans Dragons, Mickael Simon and Vincent Duport. Two years later in Prague, however, with the age level U18, with Rhys Williams and Gil Dudson in their line-up, Wales were triumphant, defeating France 38-24.
On Saturday Wales will play Scotland in the third-place game. Disappointed not to be in the main match, head coach Ant Walker said: “We tried hard but were outplayed in every aspect of the game. Full credit to England, they did a professional job but we want to finish on a high.”
Summing up for Scotland, head coach Danny Addy noted: “After the semi we were all gutted. The result was our own doing because everything France did we had seen before. It’s been a great trip and we want to round it off properly.”
In the ranking games, Ireland (with two try Ryan Curran the hero) beat Italy 26-10 and will now face hosts Serbia. Head coach Wayne Kelly commented: “It’s great to get our first-ever win at U19 level and it’s important for the development work going on in Ireland. It was an emotional occasion and I’m very proud of the boys and the way they responded to defeat by Scotland first up. We played some debutants and have great strength in depth ahead of the Serbia game; fifth spot is now the realistic target for this group,”
Serbia defeated Ukraine 54-26, Zane Bijorac with four tries and Vladimir Milutinovic three to go with seven goals. Neil Bijorac, Serbia head coach noted: “We played some good ball and I was pleased with the attack. We do need to work on defence, however, as we conceded some soft tries.”
On game day three, first up, Italy play Ukraine. When the two sides met in Fogliano in May, in qualification for the tournament), the Azzurrini ran off convincing winners.
According to Italy coach Richard Dodi: “Against Ireland we improved greatly in defence and with the ball but still made too many mistakes in attack, so we have worked on that ahead of the Ukraine game. Spirit is good in the camp.”
His opposite number, Ukraine’s Ihor Yurkin said: “I was pleased with my team when we played Serbia,” he said. “I thought we attacked well and the commitment was there throughout.”
All final round matches will again be staged at the Makis Stadium and live-streamed on – //www.sportuzivo.tv/v2/
Round 3 fixtures – Saturday 11th August
Match 9 – Seventh/Eighth place – Italy vs Ukraine – (Pitch 2, 10am)
Match 10 – Fifth/Sixth place – Ireland vs Serbia – (Pitch 1, 10.30am)
Match 11 – Third/Fourth place – Scotland vs Wales – (Pitch 1, 4pm)
Match 12 – Cup Final – England vs France – (Pitch 1, 6pm)