IRB Nations Cup
Russia and Uruguay, two teams of remarkably similar standards, in their first ever encounter, have produced a thoroughly entertaining and, in the closing stages, dramatic match in the final day of the IRB Nations Cup in Bucharest, Romania.
Los Teros won 23-19, but only gained this four-point advantage literally on the whistle - by one goal, a converted penalty try and three penalties to a goal, three penalties and one drop goal.
The Uruguayans, dominant early on, took a six-point lead through their full back Matias Arocena who landed two penalties. Their scrum was tight and they managed to win their own ball in the lineout, but the experiment with Emiliano Caffera at fly half failed to bring the expected dividends. Their back division did not ignite and they had to revert to their traditional tight tactics. In this context they had in veteran prop Pablo Lemoine not only a scrummager emeritus able to use his bulk effectively in the tight but also a wise old head who helped his team to capitalise on Russian mistakes.
But as the match wore on, with the two teams making abundant unforced errors, the Russians asserted themselves as their opponents seem to slightly fade away towards the end of the first half . Interestingly, the withdrawal of Russian veteran scrum half Victor Motorin just before the beginning of the match due to family problems, offered his understudy Alexander Yanushkyn the chance to start and produce a composed and thoroughly effective performance, behind a very athletic and influential back row of Kushnarev, Fatakhov and the tireless and talented Sorokin at number 8.
As Russia recovered they took the game into the Uruguay half and their replacement hooker Alexey Volkov crashed over for the first try of the match to bring them back into contention. Yanushkin converted and added a penalty a couple of minutes later, to take Russia to a 10-6 lead at half time.
In the second half Uruguay cut the deficit to one point through Arocena, but as time wore on the Russians managed to assert their authority based on the good work of their pack, and of scrum half Yanushkyn, who landed two more penalties and the talented fly half Sergey Kuzmenko, the author of a drop goal.
The final stages of the match found Uruguay in attack. Some five minutes from time, Sorokin got his marching orders from referee Radu Petrescu following a number of infringements at a lineout near the Russian line. Having opted for a scrum at the subsequent penalty, the Uruguayans drove the Russian pack backwards, but as they inexorably approached the line, one of the Russian forwards kicked the ball out from under the feet of the Teros number 8 Ignacio Conti.
Referee Petrescu had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try, duly converted by Arocena. Two minutes later, in a virtually identical scenario, the Uruguayan scrum drove the Russians backwards, with Contoi touching down for the winning try, with Arocena converting.
Pablo Lemoine - Uruguay
"It does not come any better for a prop than two pushovers tries. It is great for me, for the front row, for the pack and for the team. A good win for Uruguay.
Juan Campomar - Uruguay captain
"It was a good win. I am delighted with the character of this team. Even when we were led by 10 points we felt that we could win. We calmed down, took our time, made sure we took our chances and won in the end.
"This competition is a great tournament and it was great for us to compete at this level. Thanks to all our hosts, Romania who did an excellent job, to our opponents and of course IRB, who organised a marvellous competition. We want to come back next year."
Aberico Passdore - Uruguay coach
"It was a great satisfaction to win against a strong opponent, and we won because we were better in the end. We played some good rugby, made a few mistakes but in the end concentrated and managed to snatch a very important win in our first ever encounter against Russia."
Vladimir Marchenko - Russia captain
"Some of our players were tired and we also missed some of our better players. We will improve and we will do better in the next matches. It was a very useful tournament."
Nikolay Nekrush - Russia coach
"It is for the second time we lose in the closing stages after leading with 10 minutes to go. It was an inexperienced Russian side, but the players here learned a lot. We will improve and come back!"