Toulouse scrum half Romain Pallares led Spain to victory with a hat trick of tries to help overcome a stubborn Russian side who, despite conceding seven touchdowns to four, refused to surrender the initiative in Valencia, in the opening game of European Championship B.
“Full credit to Russia, we knew they were going to be a big, physical side and they never took a backward step,” said Spain head coach Darren Fisher.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our defensive efforts. I knew we could play a little and it’s a joy to see our domestic players perform in this international arena.”
On a beautiful 25 degrees afternoon, the lead changed hands five times in the first half, veteran standoff, Aleksander Lysokon missing an early penalty after Spain were caught offside, on the back of the first of a number of plunging runs from second rower Vladislav Lesnikov.
Russia return home to face Serbia next week, whilst the Spaniards will go to Belgrade the week after to determine which two nations will remain on the 2021 World Cup trail.
“We were not really ready at this level,” head coach of Russia, Denis Koralev noted. “We had a lot of new players and they don’t all understand yet how we are trying to play.
“Our next will be a very hard game against the Serbians.”
SPAIN 32 : Luc Franco, Daniel Morales, Antonio Puerta, Alex Doutres, Hadriel Mehamed, Daniel Garcia, Romain Pallares, Carlos Font, Chris Lopez, Adriá Alonso, Anthony Delgado, Kevin Aparicio, Raul Simo. Substitutes: Aitor Romero, Miguel Olivares, Juan Mudarra, Rafael Garcia.
Tries: Doutres (11, 25), Pallares (34, 53. 70), Franco (56), Puerta (64). Goals: Franco 1/3, Pallares 0/1, R. Garcia 1/1, Delgado 0/2, Olivares 0/1
RUSSIA 24 : Iustin Petrushka, Ilia Danilov, Igor Abramov, Boris Voloskov, Andrey Lavrushin, Aleksander Lysokon, Denis Tuilenev, Sergey Konstantinov, Aleksander Naumov, Kirill Bozhko, Dmitrii Leskov, Vladislav Lesnikov, Ivan Troitskiy. Substitutes: Igor Chuprin, Veacheslav Eremin, Andrey Perin, Dmitrii Tarasenkov
Tries: Lysokon (18), Danilov (29), Konstantinov (61), Leskov (66). Goals: Lysokon 4/5.
Half time: 14-12. Referee: Geoffrey Poumes (France). Man of the match: Romain Pallares