RLWC2017 EUROPEAN QUALIFIER – IRELAND 70 RUSSIA 16
There will be a European double-header at the Rectangular Ground in Perth next November, as Ireland qualified to play Wales in Group C of the 2017 World Cup on the same day England will face France.
The Wolfhounds were too strong for the Bears at the Carlisle Grounds in Bray, running in 13 tries including doubles to Alan McMahon, Scott Grix and Ollie Roberts to win by a record score, eclipsing their 64-6 triumph over the USA in Dublin in 2004.
“It’s fantastic to make it to another World Cup,” said Ireland team manager Ged Corcoran, “And great that we can make it there with some of the domestic boys included, hopefully we can maintain that.
“There are a lot of things to put in place now but it’s about keeping this group together, adding some more quality to it and getting ready for the tournament – there’s no better places to go and play than Australia and Papua New Guinea.
“We are going to be true to our word and look after those who have committed to us over the past three years to get us there.”
The match was attended by the Russian ambassador to Ireland, who was among the dignitaries presented to the sides, and he saw his men take a shock early lead, Alexsandr Lysokon grubbering through for Vyascheslav Eramin to pounce, Lysokon goaling.
They nearly scored again from a similar move but Ireland made the most of a penalty award, Will Hope crossing and Liam Finn goaling.
Joe Keyes broke clear and quick hands sent Casey Dunne over and, in the next set, Finn’s kick was lost by the Russians and the ball shipped to the left for Galway’s Alan McMahan to cross, Finn goaling both.
The Russians were then stung by Keyes again with his pace around the ruck, Grix profiting, but Shannon McDonnell spilled the restart and Leonid Kalinin scooted over from close range.
A wonderful offload by Mikhail Burklutskii put Vyascheslav away once more but he was just halted and on the counter, Finn’s great cut out pass sending Toby King over on debut and McMahon picking up a second from more expansive passing out wide.
Just before the break, McDonnell made amends, latching onto Joe Philbin’s break and Hope’s pass.
The visitors started the second half determinedly but were undone on the back of another penalty, Roberts profiting; George King powered over and Grix then danced through for his second to bring up the half century just after the hour.
Exciting local product James Kelly was next to score but the biggest cheer reserved for Stuart Littler who went in out wide on his final appearance before retirement although he missed the conversion from wide out.
It was Littler’s break on the next set that saw Roberts grab his brace, Littler goaling for his first two-pointer in Irish colours.
The Russians had the final say with a superb run by Kalinin and brilliant switch to Vadim Buryak to complete the scoring.
Bears head coach Denis Korolev commented: “We faced quality opposition and that showed, it will teach our domestic players a good lesson. We need to recover from this game now and then we will do our best against Italy.”
Russia face Italy in Leigh, England on Friday (kick off 8pm) to determine the 14th and final nation to qualify for the 2017 World Cup.