One year after gaining promotion to Division 2C of the European Nations Championship, Luxembourg were declared champions of the Division with a tough, uncompromising victory over Denmark on Saturday at Josy Barthel stadium. In front of a wonderfully supportive crowd of almost 1000 spectators, and played in ideal rugby conditions, Denmark brought an extremely aggressive attitude to the match, determined to upset the Luxembourg plans to secure a solid performance and good victory in order to farewell National coach, Marty Davis, in his final match in charge.
In a grand gesture by the Rugby Federation, Marty led the two teams on to the field accompanied by two of his grandchildren, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd in recognition of his efforts over the past 12 years.
It was evident from the outset that the Danish tactics were based on physicality and Luxembourg were asked to produce a solid defence to keep them out. Luxembourg clearly had the better attacking capabilities and produced an early break by scrum half Stu Logier, but the support was not able to capitalize and despite a sustained period of attack, and playing with the use of a gentle breeze, the score remained 0-0, with Scott Browne, normally so reliable with the boot, also missing an easy shot for goal.
Eventually after 20 minutes, running from a solid scrum 10 metres from the Danish line, Logier crossed for the opening score, but again Browne missed the conversion. 3 fine line breaks also went unrewarded with the final pass either not being made, or being made inaccurately or too late and the Danes scrambled well and thwarted Luxembourg each time. Half time arrived at 5-0.
Davis made three substitutions at half time in an effort to improve the lineouts where Denmark was in control, but the expected forward dominance never occurred and the game continued to be an arm wrestle with many off the ball actions and borderline legalities being a feature of the match, which really challenged Mr Grumbinas, the Lithuanian referee. Again Luxembourg produced line breaks and out flanking but each time poor decision making by the ball carrier, assisted Denmark to keep their line intact. Finally Browne was successful with a penalty after 72 minutes and Luxembourg was 8-0 in front with 8 minutes remaining, and appeared to be in charge. Five minutes later, Yared Ketema exploited an overlap situation, took the gap well and scored Luxembourg’s second try, but Browne failed to add the extras again and the score was 13-0.
Denmark fought to the end and in the final act of the match the Danish right wing finished excellently in the corner to open their account and finish the game with the 13-5 scoreline.
Luxembourg played the final 20 minutes without captain and talisman, Saman Rezapour, who was forced from the field with the score at 5-0, but in a testament to the continuing maturity of this team, all the players stepped up and dominated the bulk of the remaining play to see both the victory and the championship secured. None did more that Man of the Match Francois Simon, but also Benji Blanchet and Stu Logier deserve special mention for their performances. Gareth Geoffreys produced an impressive performance with his first start at this level, building upon his effort off the bench in Slovenia. On the wing Kevin Kombia was dangerous every time he received the ball but unfortunately he did not see enough of it. Many good things were produced, but the disappointment was the inability to take golden chances when offered, and to maintain pressure for long periods over the Danes, however in the end it was a totally satisfactory outcome.
The crowd was very appreciative of the commitment shown by both teams and the sustained applause at the end was greatly appreciated by all the players and although confirmed as champions for this season, Luxembourg must replicate the performances next season in order to gain promotion to Division 2B. It is obvious from the last six matches, undefeated, that this goal should be achieved.
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