Tel-Aviv Heat were defeated 28-52 by Eastern Conference winners Black Lion in their final group match.
The defeat marked the end of an impressive debut in the competition by the Israel outfit and will have impressed not just their fans, but fans of the game due to their performances.
Despite the elimination, the team can take many positives from a tournament that pushed them to the limit as they pushed their rivals to the very last match-day.
Black Lion, the conference and tournament favourites, started strongly and scored their first try on the 10 minute mark.
After a lineout on the 10-yard line, the men in white created a strong maul to overpower their opponents, forcing the Heat defenders away from the ball and Sandro Mamamtavrishvili was able to touch the ball down for an easy try.
The conversion was successfully scored by kicker Giorgi Babunashvili as the Black Lions pushed for more.
Another clean-caught Lion lineout was followed by a strong maul that had the Heat’s players struggling to recover and handed Shalva Mamukashivili his 4th try of the tournament.
Another brilliant Babunashvili conversion made it 0-14 to Black Lion as the Heat’s chances of qualifying were hanging by a thread.
The physical threat of the away team was clear to see as even when they had a man sin-binned, bringing their on-field number down to 14 players, the Heat were still struggling to find a way through the rugged defence.
The Heat were finally able to find a way through after 23 minutes, as Niall Saunders was able to break away from a maul just 5 yards from the try line, finding space in the corner and score their first try of the game.
Captain Jordan Chait, who has been so reliable for the Heat over the course of the tournament, successful scored the conversion and brought the deficit down to 7 points.
Once again however, the Lions were able to capitalize on their freshness and physical power to force a penalty kick just 15 yards from the posts, which Babunashvili converted with aplomb.
Half-time: Tel-Aviv Heat 7-17 Black Lion
With nothing to lose, the Heat knew they had to throw everything at their Georgian opponents and they came out absolutely flying.
A massive tackle from the opening kick set the tempo and the Heat had a line-out just 5 yards from the try line, out on the left-hand side of the pitch.
Following a collapsed maul, the Heat quickly moved the ball over to the right-hand side of the pitch to Xolisa Guma who, by feigning to his right and darting left, bypassed 4 Lion players and crossed over for the try.
Chait made it 2 out of 2 conversions to make it 14-17, and gave the Heat hope that they could turn this around.
Unfortunately, the Lions had other ideas.
As the Heat defence soaked up more pressure, they eventually succumbed to yet another powerful maul, giving Mamukashivili his second try of the game and Babunashvili another 2 more points.
Tiredness and fatigue in the 50th minute, along with a fantastic kick to the wing by Lasha Khmaladze, gave Akaki Tabutsadze the chance to get through 2 defenders and cross the line for his first try of the game.
Babunashvili, yet to miss a conversion in the match, scored a further 2 points and gave his team a 17-point advantage.
A further 2 tries, including a hat-trick by Mamukashivili and 2 conversions by Babunashvili, gave Black Lion a 14-45 seemingly unassailable lead with just 15 minutes to play.
After Black Lion had a man sin-binned, the Heat took advantage as Nemani Buliruarua pushed his way through 2 attempted tackles and flew over the line to score.
Chait once again stepped up to add 2 points and just minutes later, he scored 2 more as
Renaldo Bothma scored his second try of the competition with 4 minutes to go.
Black Lion then finished the game with some strong defence and after winning the ball back, an incredible try that started from their own 22 and finished with Tabutsadze scoring, with Babunashvili adding 2 more.
Full-time: Tel-Aviv Heat 28-52 Black Lion
The Tel-Aviv Heat, despite having picked up injuries and having to play 3 matches in 8 days, can exit the tournament with their head held high as they made themselves and fans proud with their gutsy performances and positive attitude.
Black Lion, having topped the group, now go on to face Western Conference runners-up Castilla Y Leon Iberians in the semi-final.
Heat captain Jordan Chait said: “Firstly, super proud of the boys, it wasn’t the best day out but we’re doing something special here you know, first ever rugby game in Israel.
“It’s been a hell of a journey, three months ago we came together, not knowing each other and definitely created something special to make Israel proud of.
“We’ll come back from this and looking forward to what the future holds.”