Although the final margin of defeat may have seemed heavy, Russia only capitulated in the last ten minutes of each half and conceded the majority of their tries in these periods. Stamina may therefore have been an issue but for parts of the game, the Bears defence withstood their opponents’ onslaught while in attack, slick handling at pace allowed Vasili Artemyez and Denis Simplikevich to cross for two well earned tries.
The opening five minutes looked as if it would set the tone for the rest of the game with Ireland camped deep in Russian territory. However, with four changes made to the front five that struggled to cope with the Italians earlier this week, this was a more resolute defence by far and as Ireland attempted to breach Russian lines, Ronan O’Gara opted to kick a penalty just to get points on the board.
The first try wasn’t slow in coming however and with O’Gara now dictating play, his cross field kick found Fergus McFadden who touched down wide on the right. In the build up to that try, Konstantin Rachkov was yellow carded for a deliberate knock on and as Ireland stretched their lead to 17-0 on fifteen minutes, it was beginning to look ominous for the Bears.
However, Russia managed to withstand further Irish pressure and as Rachkov was welcomed back onto the pitch, they began to enjoy some possession of their own. Russian forwards started to come into the game and Vladimir Ostroushko made a challenging run down the Irish right. Shortly after, Victor Gresev found himself in space wide out on the Irish left but lack of pace allowed the men in green to recover.
At 17-0 with half time looming, it looked as if Russia would go into half time with just a faint feeling of hope but sadly, it was extinguished in the space of four minutes just before half time. Firstly, Isaac Boss touched the ball on the base of the post to make it 22-0 and shortly after the restart, Keith Earls added to the score in fortunate circumstances, receiving a forward pass before touching down in the left hand corner.
Worse was to come as Andrew Trimble scored his first try in 22 matches and in the blink of an eye, the score had rocketed to 36-0 at the break.
Fears of a heavy defeat were starting to loom and up to this point, Russia hadn’t really looked like breaching the Irish try line. After a bright start to the second half, those fears increased as Earls went over for his second try of the game on 47 minutes.
Russia rallied however and for the second game in a row, Alexander Yanyushkin was at the heart of every good move. On 51 minutes he orchestrated the try of the game with a smart break and a switched pass to Vasily Artemyev. As Russian fans held their collective breath, the Northampton Saints full back sprinted for the line and recorded another historic score for the bears.
Rachkov added the conversion and Ireland immediately looked to respond from the restart. Resolute Russian defending stood firm however and just seven minutes later they were heading into Irish territory once again.
Fast, slick passing and running at pace was causing problems in the Irish ranks and it was Ostroushko who made the telling break before letting in Simplikevich to muscle his way over in the corner. The video ref confirmed the try and suddenly, all the momentum was with Russia.
This time, a shaken Ireland side did respond and there was a determination not to concede any more points. On 63 minutes, Rob Kearney went over to make it 50-12 with an O’Gara conversion.
For a while Russia stood firm but the last ten minutes of the half saw them breached on two more occasions to make the final score 62-12.
Before the game, many Russian fans were expecting a high score line while remaining hopeful that their attack could register some points at the other end. Ultimately that is what we got but comparatively speaking, this was the best performance from the Bears at this World Cup.
In defence, the changes to the pack justified their selection while the backs played some world class rugby at times. Artemyev underlined his class while Ostroushko had a much better game on the wing.
Yanyushkin also stood out but it was Denis Simplikevich who really caught the eye today with a powerful performance that would have seen top European scouts take notice.
Overall, it was a solid team performance and one that will give the squad a hint of optimism ahead of next week’s clash with Australia.
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