STARS OF ROUND 1 SUPER CUP 2022
Tries, a lot of tries, from beautiful belle époque backline moves to sheer power brakes that shattered good defensive structures, the first round of the Rugby Europe Super Cup 2022 certainly came flying out of the blocks.
But tries weren't the only thing that moved us to pick the stars of the weekend!
VALENTIN BUSTOS (IBERIANS)
"Hola y bienvenido a lo Valentín Bustos show!" Was certainly something that could have been said about the Spanish flanker on Saturday, as he scored a hattrick in his second game for the Castilla y León Iberians, performing as one of the best units for his side, alongside centre Baltazar Taibo and hooker Pablo Miejimolle.
Not only did he cross the try-line three times, but the flanker was also insatiable in every bit of his play, trying to get involved in the well-oiled and refined attacking line, injecting pure power and speed. Valentín Bustos showed his skill an pace, slicing the opposition defense with grace. It wasn't a demanding game tackle-wise, but how many times do you see a flanker run widely and throw sensational dummies? Bienvenido señor Bustos!
JORDAN CHAIT (TEL-AVIV HEAT)
Question: can a first five-eight really make a difference in a game that is dominated by the pack? Jordan Chait emphatically proved that the answer is yes at the weekend, the Tel-Aviv Heat number 10, as he was one of the keys for the Israeli side to unlock the path to victory against the debuting Romanian Wolves.
Chait converted 10 points from his boot (only missed one kick from five) and started - or was the much-needed boost for - two of the three tries scored by the Heat, being the proverbial "can opener" that can empower his side to go to a higher shift. Lethal side-steps, silky but groundbreaking handoffs, electrifying pace, and a 3D kicking game are a must-have combination for an XXI century fly-half, all qualities that Jordan Chait hand on display.
The 24-year-old, once again, started well in the Rugby Europe Super Cup, with those eel-like moves, helping the Tel-Aviv Heat to get what could be 4 pivotal points on the way to qualifying for the semi-finals.
MANUEL C. PINTO (LUSITANOS)
Manuel Cardoso Pinto, the fullback who helped the Lusitanos get over a very resilient and defensively impressive Delta side, in the third game of this year’s competition. With almost 110 meters made, the Portuguese back stung like a bee every time he had an inch of space to run through, creating several super attacking opportunities for the Lusitanos, as he was involved in all of the four tries, thanks to that eccentricity and a great pace.
Add also six-line breaks (top of the leaderboard) and twelve tacklers beaten to his two try assists, and you have here a Man of the Match display, that, in hindsight, made the difference between the two teams in a tightly contested game. A truly gifted player that sparked a world of fireworks, Manuel Cardoso Pinto was (and will continue to be) a menace from start to finish.
SHALVA MAMUKASHVILI (BLACK LION)
What a physical bout we saw to conclude the weekend of action in the first-ever Super Cup Georgian derby, between the newcomers, RC Batumi, and the reigning champions, Black Lion, won by the latter after an intense "arm-wrestle".
The winning side deserves all the praise, no doubt, and some of the Black Lion units were pivotal for the win, be it Luka Ivanshvili (game by game he is becoming a very serious contender for a place in the "Los Lelos" back row options), Tengiz Peranidze, Akaki Tabutsadze, working tirelessly to lead their side team unto the winning song and dance.
But for all the ones who fought hard, the hooker Shalva Mamukashvili gets to be our stand-out unit, as he was ferocious at each tackle or breakdown dispute (twelve completed tackles), near perfect in his set-piece duties, showcasing what the fans expect from a Georgian forward and player, keeping his cool even when pressure was at its highest point. Sometimes (or most times, if we are honest) the men from the first-row don't get the attention they deserve, and we are here, today, to bestow the spotlight on the unmovable wrecking ball, Shalva Mamukashvili.
HOT STATS OF THE ROUND
- The León y Castilla Iberians were the team that scored the most tries (9) and who had more possession (59%) of the ball throughout the first round.
- Valentín Bustos completed an hattrick, followed by his teammate, Pablo Miejimolle going over the whitewash three times.
- Lusitanos reached 100 tackles versus Delta, with more that 65% of it being made in the second-half.
By Francisco Isaac