Mon 10 September
The Russians turned in an outstanding second-half performance at the SK NARA Stadium in Naro-Fominsk on Saturday to leapfrog World Cup qualifiers Italy and go top of the European Shield table.
Trailing 18-6 shortly after the break the Bears, led magnificently by policeman prop Sergey Knostantinov, stunned the Italians with 26 unanswered points to win 32-18.
When debutant Dario Esposito crashed over on 47 minutes it looked as though the Bears were broken, but tries from Petr Botnarash (2), Eduard Ososkov (2) and Alexey Mikhailov thrilled an enthusiastic home crowd.
“It was a great game” said man-of-the-match Knostantinov. “Italy was a strong, honourable and fair opponent, and their attack had us concerned quite a lot. We don’t get games like this in Russia all the time and we’d really like to have more matches like it.”
Italian coach Paul Broadbent couldn’t fault his side’s effort, but admitted that the Russians were “really good”. “They kept coming” explained Broadbent, “and when they got a sniff they kept pushing and we cracked.
“Once we lost momentum we struggled. We made a long break, tried an offload, they recovered it and three plays later scored and we were behind from that point on. We’ve got ourselves to blame a little bit but it’s been a tough challenge and the lads have come over and given it a go.”
Italy will now aim to regroup and restore confidence ahead of the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.
RUSSIA 32 (6)
Maksim Suchkov, Rustam Bulanov, Alexey Mikhailov, Petr Botnarash, Alexey Volkov, Aleksandr Lysokon, Eduard Ososkov, Sergey Konstantinov, Vladimir Vlasyuk, Sergey Zuev, Vadim Fedchuk, Alexey Nikloaev, Sergey Gaponov. Subs: Igor Chuprin, Artem Grigoryan, Anatoly Grigorev, Victor Tolstov
Tries: Gaponov (36), Botnarash (55, 72), Ososkov (58, 60), Mikhailov (69)
Goals: Lysokon: 4/6
ITALY 18 (12)
Fabrizio Ciaurro, Rodrigo Marchesi, Christophe Calegari, Thomas Piscitelli, Fabio Nannini, Gert Peens, Remi Fontana, Cedric Prizzon, Mario Marcinczak, Dario Esposito, Davide Rancati, Giovanni Franchi, Matthew Sands. Subs: Fabio Berzieri, Kelly Rolleston, Stefano Cardella
Tries: Ciaurro (11, 30), Esposito (47)
Goals: Peens 3/3