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Wanderers pass physical Russian test

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

The Russian champions were in town for the first match in a short tour of England, and they began strongly, controlling the majority of possession for the first 10 minutes. However their skill levels were letting them down and they could not convert their possession into points due to a series of unforced errors. This was a common theme from the outset with both teams finding it difficult to build momentum.

The Wanderers however managed to hold onto the ball for long enough to force some pressure onto the visitors under which they crumbled. Greig Tonks showing the intentions early in kicking for the corner, and with increasing amounts of pressure leading to a series of penalties scrum-half Alex Day broke from the ball of a maul and passed to Jamie Elliott, who marked his return from injury by scoring in the corner.

From the restart the Russian side came back fighting, forcing the home side into more unforced errors, which the visitors duly capitalised on. The Wanderers' scrambling defence was unable to keep up with the pace and physicality of the visitors, which when combined with slick handling and tip on passes, created a hole for scrum-half Alexander Shakirov to run in untouched under the posts. Yuriy Kushnarev converted, adding an easy two points.

Unforced errors again squandered either side's chance of any fluidity. Nevertheless Jon Clarke showed some flair to chip over the top and Josh Skelcey chased through to collect only to be tackled short of the line. Some outstanding defensive work by the visitors' back row saved them that time, but individual brilliance again was rapidly becoming the key to attack. A Tonks break beat two players on his way to the line, but while he was held up between the posts by a piece of superb defence from Ramil Usupov the following scrum led to the Wanderers working an overlap for Vasily Artemyev to run in and score against his former club. Tom Bullough converted the try, taking the Wanderers in at half time leading 12-7.

Immediately after the break VVA threatened the home side's defence, wing Andrei Kuzin breaking the line and only stopped by good covering defence from Artemyev and Day. Quick thinking from Tom Collins meant that play was taken well into the visitors' half and would have led to a try if Shakirov had not illegally knocked the ball on.

However in doing so he received a yellow card and 10 minutes in the sin bin, and the Wanderers capitalised on this instantly. The penalty went to the corner and once again Day's break from the back of a driving maul brought a try, this time going on his own to power over the line in the left hand corner.

With the visitors down to 14 men the home side began to increase in confidence, upping their tempo and accuracy with ball in hand. A scrum just outside the Wanderers' 22 led to Clarke breaking the gain line with a set play straight off the training field. This left a simple two-on-one with the full back and a simple pass to Tonks allowed the skipper to stroll in between the posts.

Another unforced error by the visitors gave Tonks the chance to put up a high ball. Junior Saints Academy wing Josh Skelcey chased and collected comfortably, and with only the full back to beat he turned on the pace to run in from 50 metres to score in the corner.

Skelcey had his second within a couple of minutes, the youngster on hand to finish off an Artemyev break. Nevertheless the visitors wouldn't lie down and came back with a late surge of pressure. And with the Wanderers giving easy penalties away the Russian side were able to drive over from 10 metres out for Korsev to score and Kushnarev to convert.

The Wanderers tried to mount one last attack and came close to rounding things off with another line break from Clarke and offload to Artemyev only stopped by some last-ditch defence. Nevertheless it was a positive outing for the Wanderers as they build towards April's Aviva 'A' League semi-final.

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