The Lithuanian men’s rugby team had no trouble seeing off a woeful Latvian team on Saturday, defeating their hosts 48-8. In what was a must-win test for Latvia if they were to remain playing in the European Nations Cup 2A division next season, team management inexplicably opted to breed fresh blood into the team, instead of fielding a number of more seasoned campaigners who are currently boycotting the national team over selection issues and the current coaching staff, which includes a head coach who learned his trade in the Soviet system and appears out of touch with the modern game of rugby. Lithuania were ruthless in their approach to the game, wearing the Latvian forwards down around the ruck, forcing Latvia to pull in more defenders, before spinning the ball wide to their backs, who more-often-than-not found themselves wide open to waltz in for tries. Latvia has now won just one of their seven group games, whilst the win for Lithuania sees them hold onto second place in the group with one game remaining, against Croatia this Saturday. However, overtaking top-of-the-table Sweden and qualifying to play in European Nations Cup 1B next season looks almost impossible for the Lithuanians, even if they should win. In order to gain promotion ahead of Sweden, they not only need to win their game, but also need Latvia to defeat the Swedes, or at best not allow Sweden to gain a bonus point by scoring four or more tries. Given that only five players turned out to Latvian national team training prior to the trip to Sweden, this scenario looks less than likely.
This week has begun as one of the most promising for Baltic tennis this season with three Baltic players all winning their first round match-ups in their respective tournaments. Participating in the Estoril Open in Portugal, Estonian number one Kaia Kanepi breezed into the second round in her year’s clay debut, defeating American qualifier Sloane Stephens 6-0, 6-1. In the second round, the tournament sixth seed will meet another American, Vania King. Playing in the Budapest Grand Prix in Portugal, Latvian doubles specialist Liga Dekmeijere has also moved into the second round, teaming up with Russia’s Maria Kondratieva to defeat Czech Eva Hrdinova and her British partner, Anne Keothavong 6-2, 6-3. Next up for the pair are local hopeful Katalin Marosi and her Georgian partner, Anna Tatashvili. Continuing the good results for Baltic players is Ernests Gulbis. For just the second time this season the Latvian number one has won his first match at an ATP event, defeating Belgium’s Xavier Malisse 6-4, 6-2 in the opening round of the BMW Open in Munich, Germany. In the second round he will come up against the fourth-seeded local hopeful, Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Estonian rally driver Ott Tanak has put in another solid drive on the fifth stop on the World Rally Championship calendar, driving his Ford Fiesta WRC to 10th place overall in the Philips Rally Argentina. The one point that the 24-year-old gained from the weekend’s racing means that he remains sitting 10th in the overall Championship standings. Tanak’s Russian teammate, Evgeny Novikov’ was also having a productive weekend, finishing the 19 stages placed eighth overall, picking up four points for his efforts to see him sitting in fifth place in the season’s standings. Tanak’s and Novikov’s team, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team, lies third in the manufacturer’s standings. The sixth rally of the year sees the WRC return to Europe for the Acropolis Rally in Greece, taking place from May 25 to 27.