A decisive victory for Russia at the Fili Stadium, Moscow, over a gallant but outclassed Spain, saw them qualify from Pool B and set up their match away in Ireland at the end of the month.
Watched by RLIF chairman Nigel Wood, tries either side of half time were decisive for the Bears, after getting off to a perfect start. Russia head coach, Denis Korolev commented: “We achieved all that we wanted to from the game and that is satisfying. Tactically we were good, we didn’t complete every set but what we did overall was more important than any individual mistakes.”
Stand off and man of the match, veteran Aleksandr Lysokon, ran the gam, his break in the seventh minute sending Mikhail Burlutskii over, Lysokon goaling. And Lysokon was also on target soon after to make it 12-0 when Nikolai Zagoskin crossed.
Once having found their feet, however – in the four degree cold – the visitors dug in. Spanish centre Antonio Puerta, who was a threat throughout, was unlucky to lose the ball over the line, and Clement Laguerre made a terrific saving tackle following Dmitry Bratko’s break, with Zagoskin held up on the last.
Just after the half hour, Leonid Kalinin trampled over two would-be tacklers, setting the position for Petr Botnarash, operating at hooker, to send over the giant Kirill Kosharin by the posts who had been switched from prop to centre. Lysokon goaled and, four minutes after the break, cleverly stepped his way over and added the extras to make it 24-0. His long pass then freed Kalinin who sent Bratko in at the corner, the winger converting his own try from out wide
The visitors then earned due reward for their unstinting effort. Gonzalo Morro put Leandre Torres clear and his pass saw Juan Pablo Rango cross between the posts, Danny Garcia goaling.
The Spaniards tired late on, and the hosts then scored twice more; Kalinin with the run that saw Igor Chuprin ove, and the best move of the match which saw the ball spread left to right as Lysokon, Denis Tiulenev and Botnarash combined to create the overlap for Vadim Buryak, who sped into the corner.
Spain head coach, Darren Fisher had few complaints, after his side faced their toughest international test to date. “We were poor in execution and completion,” he said, “especially on the first tackle. And against such a big side that’s going to hurt you.
“Well done to Russia, congratulations. A lot of their guys have been together for a while and that showed. Our focus is now about bouncing back, and putting some things right to face Ireland. The boys have got to believe in themselves and pick themselves up, so that’s what we’ll try and do.”