Lelos Power their Way to 15th Straight Win over Russia

Few rivalries in sport can be quite so one-sided as Georgia’s with Russia in rugby union, and the Lelos’ dominance in the fixture continued with a 24-7 victory over the Russians in Sochi on March 12 in the European Nations Cup, a fifteenth triumph in-a-row over their northern neighbors.

The 17-point winning margin for Milton Haig’s side was also Georgia’s biggest ever on Russian soil, and from an early stage the outcome was in little doubt.

After a tense opening 14 minutes, full-back Merab Kvirikashvili eased Georgian worries with a well-taken penalty to give the visitors a 3-0 advantage.

Seven minutes later, Georgia extended their lead with a wonderfully worked first try of the afternoon as Lasha Khmaladze’s delicate kick set up center Tamaz Mchedlidze for a magnificent opener by the posts, duly converted by Kvirikashvili.

Two things tend to happen when Georgia play Russia: Georgia win, and tempers fray. The latter component was clearly visible in the 38th minute when some brawling between Russia’s Yury Kushnarev and Georgia’s Giorgi Nemsadze led to both players being sin-binned by English referee Matthew Carley.

Georgia’s 10-0 lead at the interval was quickly increased in the second-half when, after a spell of concerted pressure, prop forward Anton Peikrishvili dummied past the retreating Russian backline to score with Kvirikashvili again making no mistake with the conversion to put Georgia 17 points ahead.

Any slender hopes of a Russian comeback were effectively extinguished when the home side’s Evgenii Pronenko was yellow carded in the 56th minute and, with a man advantage, Georgia soon killed off the match.

A bizarre error by Russia’s Kushnarev, who treated the ball like a live grenade, gifted possession to Nemsadze who strolled across the line for an easy third Georgian try, converted capably by Kvirikashvili.

A late score by Ramil Gaisin and a conversion by Kushnarev reduced Russia’s arrears but the Georgian fans and players alike would celebrate long into the night after yet another battering of the Bears.

Alastair Watt

17 March 2016 19:25