Israel wins as 2015 Rugby World Cup qualification continues

Getty Images and James Mortimer     07 Oct 2013     Getty Images

More than 1,000 people braved the elements at Stade Josy Barthel to witness and cheer on a huge performance by Luxembourg, who are ranked 44 places below Israel on the IRB World Rankings. A virtuoso first-half performance by fly half Cillian Keane – one of 16 Luxembourg-born players in the squad – kept the home team in touch, going into half-time trailing by just four points, 9-13.

But, overall, Israel’s strength was too much for the home players. First half tries by fly half Amir Beutler and tight-head prop Matan Brosh set the foundation and three penalties from Ori Abutbul kept Luxembourg at bay. A late try by the robust and dynamic Michael Eli was enough to thwart the dreams of the home supporters.

It was an Israel performance that was far from perfect – they will need to improve ahead of the Netherlands game – but Luxembourg’s defence was aggressive and effective, forcing Israel into handling errors born out of hurried decisions made.

Although the VIP stand was filled with some of Luxembourg’s highest-profile elected officials, as well as the president of FIRA-AER Octavian Morariu, in some respects, the guest of honour at the stadium was the charismatic Webb Ellis Cup itself. A long queue of admirers before and after the match snaked through the main stand as rugby fans waited patiently for a chance to take a picture with the iconic symbol of rugby excellence.

With less than two years to go before RWC 2015 kicks off in England, the global qualification process is really heating up. Israel will next play the Netherlands who saw off Lithuania, Malta, Croatia and Switzerland to top Division 2A at the halfway stage of the European Nations Cup 2014.