By Mark Stevens
Russia Rugby had plenty of reason to celebrate after they scooped not only the Mitsbushi Motors Exeter 7s title on Sunday, but their victory at Sandy Park also saw them land the Rugby Europe Grand Prix Series crown and a place at the Rugby World Cup Sevens event in San Francisco next year.
Two points adrift of series leaders Ireland head into the Exeter weekend, Russia produced some outstanding rugby across the two days to seal victory.
They opened their account on Saturday with a 34-0 thumping of Poland, only to lose narrowly 7-5 to arch rivals Georgia in their second fixture of the day. However, Russia’s day would finish on a high note as they returned to winning ways with victory over Wales 17-12.
Ireland, meanwhile, enjoyed a hugely successful opening day, recording three wins from three against Portugal (36-7), Belgium (40-7) and France (26-0).
Hosts England ended day one with a 19-5 victory over Italy with tries from George Chatterton, Alex Davis and Mason Tonks, but this followed two earlier defeats to Spain and Germany.
Day Two kicked off with England again in action, but their hopes of home success were thwarted immediately when Ireland powered past them 24-7. Russia, meanwhile, gained revenge for their earlier defeat by Georgia by winning their re-match 19-12 to advance into the semi-finals.
With the games coming thick and fast for the bumper Sandy Park crowd, Russia saw off Portugal (17-12) before Wales – who were coached by former Exeter Chiefs player, Richie Pugh – inflicted a first defeat of the tournament on Ireland (15-12).
Spain’s early exit meant both Russia and Ireland had already qualified for America, but it was the former who finished the day off in style as they won 27-10 against Wales in the Grand Final.
Ireland completed a fine season and Exeter tournament by claiming third spot with a 33-12 success over Portugal.
England finished sixth after they were beaten 17-12 by Georgia in the fifth-place final having earlier defeated Germany.