Grand Slam-winning Wales equal their highest-ever World Rugby Ranking following their heroics in Cardiff.
Wales are up to second place in the World Rugby Rankings – for the first time since 28 September, 2015 – following their 25-7 win over Ireland in the final round of the Guinness Six Nations on Saturday.
No amount of wind or rain could dampen the celebrations in Cardiff and throughout the Principality as a whole as Wales completed their third Grand Slam under Warren Gatland and extended their winning run in tests to 14 matches.
Hadleigh Parkes’ try after barely a minute had passed and Gareth Anscombe’s 20-point man-of-the-match contribution sends Wales into the final stages of their Rugby World Cup 2019 preparations as the leading team in the northern hemisphere, a status Ireland had enjoyed unbroken for just over a year.
Wales’ rating is now only a fraction lower than 90 points with the gap between themselves and the world’s number one team, New Zealand, standing at 2.58 points.
Ireland drop to third following the loss of 1.23 rating points, while England’s incredible 38-38 draw in a see-saw Calcutta Cup match saw them lose a point and Scotland gain one but with both teams staying put in the rankings, in fourth and seventh respectively.
In one of the most dramatic matches ever seen at Twickenham, Scotland came within seconds of recording their first win at English rugby’s HQ despite having trailed 31-0 in as many minutes.
Owen Farrell converted tries from Jack Nowell, Tom Curry, Joe Launchbury and Jonny May and landed a penalty to put England in complete control before Stuart McInally pulled one back for the shell-shocked Scots with five minutes of the half remaining.
A brace of tries from Darcy Graham and scores from Magnus Bradbury and Finn Russell brought the Scots back on level terms before Sam Johnson’s brilliant solo effort on 78 minutes, which Russell converted, looked to have won it for the visitors.
England regained their composure though and replacement George Ford darted over at the death for a try which he improved to ensure the honours finished even.
The first match of the final round came in Rome where Italy were made to pay for spurning several chances, losing 25-14 to a France side that ended the Six Nations with two wins to their name and in fourth place.
France gained just over seventh-tenths of a point for the victory but they remain in eighth, an improvement of one place on their position at the start of the year.
Outside of the Six Nations, there plenty of other matches taking place across all corners of Europe. In the final round of the Rugby Europe Championship, champions Georgia, runners-up Spain and Romania were all victorious but none of the teams were able to improve their ranking position.
GEORGIAN CLEAN SWEEP
Georgia completed a second-tier Grand Slam with a 22-6 win against Russia in Krasnodar. Openside flanker Giorgi Tsutskiridze and centre Lasha Malaguradze both scored for the Lelos who were also awarded a penalty try; however, the bonus point escaped them for only the second time in the championship this season.
Spain registered their best finish at this level for seven years after overcoming Germany 33-10 in Cologne. Four of Los Leones’ tries came through the forwards with Quentin Garcia, Manu Mora, Michael Walker-Fitton and Lucas Guillame all crossing in addition to a try from fly-half Andrew Norton. Germany grabbed a late consolation through Marcel Honn.
Belgium drop two places in the rankings to 27th, with Hong Kong Kong and the Netherlands both profiting, after losing 43-17 at home to Romania.
The Oaks held a 26-10 interval lead after tries from number eight Dorin Lazar, blindside flanker Vlad Nistor and winger Vladut Zaharia and three penalties and conversion from the boot of Daniel Plai. Belgium responded in stoppage time through hooker Thomas Dienst after Romania had been reduced to 14 men following a yellow card for second-row Marius Antonescu.
A further penalty from Plai was followed by a penalty try before replacement front-rower Ovidiu Cojocaru got in on the act. The Black Devils had the final word when flanker Jean-Maurice Decubber went over late on.
DUTCH LEAVE IT LATE
Belgium are now below the Netherlands in the rankings after the Dutch snatched a late 24-22 win away to Czechia in the Rugby Europe Trophy, a result that moves them up to 26th place. The home side led 22-17 with seconds remaining but the pressure of defending with 14 men following a yellow card to Richard Hřebačka eventually told on them, Josh Gascoigne crossing to level the scores before Amir Ruben Rademaker knocked over the match-winning conversion.
The Netherlands’ third victory of the season keeps them in contention for the Rugby Europe Trophy title, although Portugal remain favourites after a 48-14 win away to Switzerland left them one point clear with a game in hand. Rodrigo Marta continued his fine try-scoring run with a brace and replacement Manuel Marta made it a family double with two of his own in the space of nine minutes.
One other match carried rating points this weekend, Israel’s 40-0 victory over Bosnia & Herzegovina in Rugby Europe’s Conference 1 South earning them a two-place rise to 60th with Venezuela and Kazakhstan both dropping down as a result.
Martinique’s 43-19 win against Barbados in the Rugby Americas North Championship did not count towards the rankings.
Story : World Rugby