Russians prove too good
Visiting Russian club team Krasny Yar were too strong for a Marlborough selection in an entertaining rugby clash at Lansdowne Park last night.
The visitors took time to settle but ran away with the match in the last quarter to win 48-18 as the home side, sprinkled with new players on the local club scene, wilted under pressure from a physical Russian side which contained several members of their World Cup squad and some New Zealand players, including former Tasman Makos forward Glenn Gregory.
Former Southland rep John Dodd proved the main difference in the first half for Krasny Yar, landing five goals from as many attempts, several from out wide as well as scoring a try as the visitors led 23-13 at halftime.
The Marlborough selection competed strongly and showed flashes of cohesive play but paid for turning ball over as the slick Russian team were quick to capitalise.
As the match wore on, Krasny Yar took control, dominating the lineouts and pressuring the home side into errors with aggressive defence and their ability to quickly shut down space.
While several of their tries were from forced errors, they created nice tries as well and were particularly impressive in the backs, where livewire halfback Doropeev (no christian names supplied) and speedy wing Cheremnykh excelled.
The loose-forward trio of Gregory, ex-Southlander Tom Fleming and Konakov, also impressed as hard bruising players.
For the Marlborough selection, two of the new players in town particularly impressed, first-five Hayden Cripps from Harlequins and Central lock Brian Utumapu, both scoring a try.
Cripps displayed an impressive all-round package. He was slick on the pass, happy to run when the opportunity arose and generally kicked well tactically.
Utumapu was the main go-to man at lineout time and made several barn-storming runs but blighted his copybook near the finish when he was red carded by referee Dean Bishop for foul play.
Both halfbacks, Daniel MacDonald and his replacement William Alaiasa, looked sharp, but the most incisive back in a red jersey was veteran Onolevu Temo, tearing into his work and making numerous line breaks.
Prop Tim Perry was prominent in the first half and midfielder Mike Schmidt-Lealava'a ran strongly.
Tasman Makos assistant coach, former All Black Leon MacDonald, helped Marlborough coach Steve Crockett prepare the team, although preparation was extremely limited against a team playing the fourth of a five-match New Zealand tour.
MacDonald was particularly impressed with Cripps at first-five, Temo's strong performance on the right wing and felt lock Utumapu impressed with his ball carrying.
"Probably what we expected. Disjointed, showed at lineout time in particular. They are a pretty decent side the Russian team. Pretty well drilled. They came at us hard on D (defence), they got into our faces and I don't think a lot of our guys had experienced that sort of line speed before and when we were on D they carried hard at us and we were probably a little bit on our heels.
"Good to have a game like this at this time of the year."
Krasny Yar 48 (Cheremnyky 2, Otrokov, Dodd, Ryazantse, Doropeev, tries, Dodd 3 con, 4 pen) Marlborough selection 18 (Hayden Cripps, Brian Utumapu tries, Cripps con, 2 pen). Half-time: Krasny Yar 23-13
- The Marlborough Express
Who will win the Press Cup on Saturday, 2.30pm, Lansdowne Park, Blenheim?