Black Lion continue to set the standard in the RE Super Cup as they are crowned 2023 champions
Black Lion held on amid a Tel-Aviv Heat fightback and some of their own indiscipline to win the Rugby Europe Super Cup final 27-17 on Friday.
At the Avchala Stadium in Tbilisi the Georgian outfit came out on top 27-17 against their opponents from Israel, but that does not tell the whole story of a match that had everything.
Black Lion have now won the Super Cup three times out of three and they continue to be the standard bearers in this ever-growing event.
In the seventh minute, Black Lion took the lead thanks to a penalty through stand-off Luka Matkava.
Nine minutes later, after a couple of good battles at scrum time, Black Lion scored the first try of the game.
They won a scrum penalty and Matkava kicked to touch. From the lineout five metres out from the Heat try line, the driving maul worked to perfection and back-row Giorgi Kervalishvili powered over. Matkava converted and it was 10-0.
In the 19th minute, Black Lion won a turnover and pounced to score their second try.
Off the turnover, scrum-half Tengiz Peranidze fed skipper Merab Sharikadze who set winger Alexander Todua away.
He still had a lot of work to do down the left, but he went past a couple of players and then bounced off Heat stand-off Vaughen Isaacs to dive in at the corner. Matkava nailed the conversion and it was 17-0 after the first quarter of the match to Black Lion.
The Heat had to get the next score to give them a foothold in the game - and they got it.
It came in the 27th minute from a maul of their own, the pressure seeing a seven point penalty try awarded.
Sandro Mamamtavrishvili, the Black Lion back-row, was yellow carded for side entry as the side from Israel were just about over the line and suddenly the Heat could feel some momentum.
Just before they returned to 15 men, Black Lion scored an all-important third try.
A very neat lineout move from the training ground fooled the Heat defence and No.8 Luka Ivanishvili went over, bumping Heat winger Gerswin Mouton off for good measure, to go over. Matkava converted and it was 24-7 to the Georgians at the interval.
In the 46th minute, a neat kick through from Ivanishvili nearly set up winger Akaki Tabutsadze for a try, but Heat wing man Xolisa Guma just got back to touch it down in the dead ball area.
There was then a flashpoint soon after when the assistant referee Christopher Lough on the far side saw head-on-head contact by Black Lion back-row Giorgi Kervalishvili and referee Andrew Cole red carded him.
A well-executed rolling maul then saw the Heat score their second try in the 53rd minute via hooker Neil Rautenbach. Isaacs missed the conversion and it was 24-12.
With 15 minutes to go, replacement hooker McMillan MullerULLER crashed over for an unconverted try for the Heat and it was 24-17 and things were set up for a thrilling finale.
In the 70th minute, Matkava calmed things down a bit for Black Lion with a penalty to make their lead 10 points.
With six minutes to go, Beka Mamrikishvili, the Black Lion replacement hooker, was yellow carded and it meant that they would end the game with 13 men.
They did hang on 27-17 though and this Black Lion outfit really keep setting a high bar in this competition.
Black Lion captain Merab Sharikadze said: “It was not an easy game, but all’s well that ends well and being champions for three years in a row is great.
“The Black Lion project will keep building and building while we have EPCR Challenge Cup action to look forward to soon.”
Black Lion head coach Levan Maisashvili said: “A final is always very tough. We dominated the first half, but then discipline cost us and the red card disrupted us.
“However, we stuck to our task and credit must go to the players for that as they have beaten a strong Tel-Aviv Heat side.”
Prince Gaoseb, the Heat captain, said: “Obviously it is disappointing, we had a lot of chances, but we just didn’t capitalise on them".
“The Black Lion managed to get over the line and credit to them".
“We had a pretty good season, but just at the end we didn’t win when it counted, but we will regroup and see how we can do next year.”
Heat head coach Kevin Musikanth said: “We were asleep in the first half, but the boys fought back in the second half and I really want to praise them for everything they have done as we have played five games in five different countries in the competition this year.
“This is a sport, it is to be enjoyed. There is a lot of hatred in the world just now and we want to dedicate getting to the final to the people back in Israel”.