Celtic Crusaders produced an excellent second half performance scoring eight tries without reply to beat Lokomotiv Moscow in the Carnegie Challenge Cup on Sunday.
The Welsh eventually won 58-10 but were given a shock in the first half when the Russians battled hard and at one point could have taken the lead.
However the Crusaders’ superior fitness and improved ball skills was the major difference in the second half as they waltzed to what was eventually an easy victory.
Crusaders’ Operations Manager Gerald McCarthy now hopes that his side will draw a Super League club in Round Four.
“We’d love to compete against the best Super League has to offer,” he said. “We’ve already beaten Harlequins this season, albeit in a friendly and they’re now competing at the top of Super League. But we’ve quite a few games before we worry about that starting with Doncaster at the Brewery Field next Saturday. That’s going to be a great occasion as it immediately follows the Wales v France possible Grand Slam match in the Six Nations and to celebrate, anyone who arrives at the ground by 5pm to watch the Wales game gets in for free and gets free curry and rice as well. We kick-off at 7.30pm.”
Following two completed sets from each side, Crusaders found a gap for the first try with Darren Mapp setting up Josh Hannay to run over.
There could have been a second try from the first set after kick-off but Ian Webster’s grubber was collected well by Valentin Baskakov.
However from the next play, Damien Quinn ran through and Jace Van Dijk converted.
Moscow were close to a try back but Viktor Nechaev’s kick was picked up by Tony Duggan. Baskakov also should have scored but he failed to notice the gap to run through, kicking instead and Duggan collected.
But their determination was rewarded on 19 minutes when Oleg Smirnov forced his way over for a try with Andrey Zdobnikov adding the extras.
The irrepressible Smirnov, who once mooted as a Wests Tigers prospect, created the next try, passing to Nikolay Zagoskin who was given far too much space to level the scores at 10-10.
Quinn thought he’d given Crusaders the lead again five minutes before the interval but Duggan’s pass to him was forward.
However Duggan himself ran over a minute later which Van Dijk duly converted to give the Welsh a slender lead at the interval.
Duggan created the next try early in the second half when he slipped the ball to Quinn for the loose forward to score his second.
Jordan James forced his way over six minutes later and Ben Flower set up Mark Lennon to run home for a further try straight from kick-off converting it himself.
Aaron Summers easily ran through for another Crusaders try after David Tangata-Toa created the gap. Welsh international Jordan James was next over following a fine passing move involving Darren Mapp, Paul Ballard and Chris Beasley. Lennon converted both.
Ian Webster’s hat-trick of late tries, the latter two converted by Lennon sealed the win.
1. Tony Duggan
2. Paul Ballard
3. Josh Hannay
4. Mark Lennon
5. Anthony Blackwood
6. Ian Webster
7. Jace Van Dijk
8. Jordan James
9. Neil Budworth
10. David Tangata-Toa
11. Chris Beasley
12. Darren Mapp
13. Damien Quinn
14. Jamie I’Anson
15. Aaron Summers
16. Ben Flower
17. Philippe Gardent
Tries: Hannay (4), Quinn (9, 42), Duggan (36), James (47, 59), Lennon (50), Summers (57), Webster (66, 73, 78)
Goals: Van Dijk 2/4, Quinn 0/1, Lennon 5/6
1. 1. Oleg Logunov
2. 2. Nikolay Zagoskin
3. 22. Ruslan Izmaylov
4. Andrey Zdobnikov
5. Valentin Baskakov
6. Viktor Nechaev
7. Artem Grigoryan
8. Aleksander Lysenkov
9. Roman Ovchinnikov
10. Evgeny Bozhukov
11. Oleg Smirnov
12. Sergey Sidorov
14. Mikhail Nisiforov
15. Georgy Vinogradov
17. Denis Meshkov
18. Aleksander Klebanov
29. Sergey Dobrynin
Tries: Smirnov (19), Zagoskin (22)
Goals: Zdobnikov 1/2