The final of the Euro Championship D on Sunday will feature Czechia - after they defeated Malta 40-16 in the opening game, and Netherlands - who beat hosts Turkey 40-18, in a double-header at the Huseyin Akar Tesisler Stadium in Bodrum.
Over 500 fans watched the matches which both saw dominant second half displays by the victors.
The opening encounter was marred by a compound leg fracture to Czech substitute Jiří Pecina in the 16th minute soon after he came on from the bench, which led to a 30 minute delay as he was treated, and it was injuries to a number of Maltese players that ultimately cost them.
“Our first half was horrible,” said Czechia head coach David Lahr. “We started really badly and then lost one of our best players to injury. We wish him well and hope that it is not the end of his career and dedicate the win to him. In the second half we started to get more control around the ruck and that was what we needed. I’m really proud because we only used domestic players and that is the best for us.”
Malta led 16-0 with only 25 minutes gone, scrum half Zarrin Galea from Redcliffe Dolphins with a try and two goals, but two Czechia touchdowns in six minutes after half time swung the match, scrum half Jakub Hudrlík ending with 20 points thanks to two tries and six goals; Chrudim Rabbitohs hooker Tomáš Řičica also with a brace.
Malta head coach Roderick Attard noted: “We are very disappointed especially as we were leading early on but our squad is small and that told as we had no one left on the bench. It was a team effort to finish the game and everybody contributed as best they could.”
Zwolle centre Joran Schoenmaker’s second try, a fine solo effort a minute from the break, combined with Thomas Farrell’s first of two four-pointers a minute after it, gave Netherlands the impetus for victory. Scrum half Auke Idzera was perfect with the boot, landing six conversions and two penalties, in a convincing performance.
“We came in as underdogs but now we’re on to the final,” said Netherlands head coach Kane Krlic. “All of our players are from the domestic competition and that’s extremely important to us. Growing that is still the main focus and this is the reward for staying loyal to those players.”
Turkey responded well to going 12 points down, hooker Oğuzhan Demir with a fine try and ended the scoring, head coach Julien Treu feeling that his side showed plenty of promise. “We worked hard but made too many mistakes and gave away a lot of penalties in the first half,” he commented. “Fair play to Netherlands, they played very well but we have confidence for the ranking match with Malta and are going all out for a win on home soil.”
Tomáš Horák, Martin Kubát, Roman Richtr, Filip-Daniel Kittl, Antonín Berk, Matěj Greenwood, Jakub Hudrlík, Jan Říha, Tomáš Řičica, David Bělohlávek, Taras Turkevyč, Jan Hovard, Ondřej Preininger
Subs (all used): Daniel Veselý, Jiří Pecina, Tomáš Kasík, Josef Chuchlík
Tries: Bělohlávek (30), Preininger (42), Řičica (46, 70), Hudrlík (62, 67), Horák (73)
Goals: Hudrlík 6/7
Mark Camilleri, Jean Scholey, Cameron Brown, Alfie Jewitt, Shan Francois Hussain, Christian Briffa, Zarrin Galea, Dean Zammit, Robin Cutjar, Jeremy Dela, Russell Bugeja, Jean-Pierre Zarb, Justin Barlogio
Subs (all used): Justin Farrugia, James Grech, Auden Denicoli
Tries: Scholey (5), Barlogio (10), Galea (25),
Goals: Galea 2/3
Sin bin: Barlogio (39 – late challenge)
Half time: 6-16
Referee: Aris Dardamanis (Greece)
Miraç Ertürk, Selçuk Cömert, Behzad Bayram, Errol Carter, Batuhan Balçin, Ozan Işik, Kemal Ege Gürkan, Alperen Kademli, Oğuzhan Demir, Ahmet Tarik Tekin, Oğuzhan Tirendez, Mert Tayyar Berktav, Doruk Çeliktutan
Subs (all used): Rama Kabak, Taner Burak, Yusuf Can Tunç, Ömer Faruk Pir
Tries: Demir (25), Ertürk (30), Çeliktutan (78)
Goals: Bayram 3/3
Laury Renac, Arie-Tjerk Razoux Schultz, Joran Schoenmaker, Thomas Farrell, Isaacs Ngirubiu, Ben Dommershuijsen, Auke Idzera, Mauricio Gomez Pazos, Paul Dirkzwager, Bonne Wilce, Daniel De Ruiter, Paul Kuijpers, Frank Longhurst
Subs (all used): Lucas Gout, Edson Neves, Adam Braksator, Shadan Lavia
Tries: Shoenmake (9, 39), Ngirubiu (20), Farrell (41, 55), Renac (73)
Goals: Idzera 8/8
Half time: 12-20
Referee: Eamonn Whelan (Ireland)