We delve into some of the facts and figures from another action-packed weekend of Super Cup action from the matches held in Russia, Belgium and Spain.
Enisei, Lords of the Russian Super Cup derby
What a Russian Super Cup derby delivered by Lokomotiv Penza and Enisei, with a nine-try galore offering a great show to the fans on the stands, in this 2nd round. What appeared to be a one-way match in the first 40 minutes - Enisei were in the lead by 22-07-, turned out to be a very tight second half as the Loko players were able to reach a 6 points gap, making good use of their mobile forward pack to open some flaws on the opposition defense, with Ilia Spanderashvili and German Silenko being instrumental to this strong reaction by the home team.
But what deserves the spot for best highlight? The monumental 30 minutes from the Penza squad? Or how Enisei held their ground and had the mental acuity to efficiently score points whilst under pressure? For this weekend, we've to homage the victors as they were able to withstand a ferocious Lokomotiv side, upholding impactful tackles, scoring some of the best tries in the competition, like Viktor Kononov's or Aleksei Schcherban's finishes (Ramil Gaisin was the maestro, setting up both tries), and never losing their cool even when there was a strong prospect for an upset.
From a good all-around display of the 23 picked for this Russian derby, three players stood as the best: Ramil Gaisin, Friedle Olivier, and Andrei Temnov. Gaisin, Enisei's flyhalf, only missed two kicks of a total of eight, assisting in 4 tries and twice breaking the line and gracing the match with a silky approach by his boot; Olivier imposed dominance in the physical front, moving almost always forward, mauling the opposition on the breakdown and contact (10 tackles and 1 turnover penalty), finishing with a monster try; and Temnov, the Blindside flanker proved essential for the work that most don't (or aren't suited) to do, cleaning the rucks, cover tackling and pressuring the high ball in this 44-21 win for Enisei.
With 10 points bagged in the first two Super Cup fixtures, Enisei can really be seen as one of the contenders to reach the final, even if they still have to play the Black Lions (Georgia) And Tel-Aviv (Israel).
Brussels Devils with a scintillating first half
And from a last weekend's staggering loss, the Brussels Devils have bounced back by defeating their Dutch neighbours in a good contest, with the Belgian side in the lead from the start. So, how did they climb back from a 13-34 to a 27-21? Forwards dominance at the maul and scrum and the backs running good lines and making sure they were part of the breakdown's physical contest which dealt serious damage to Delta, forcing Allard Jonkers side to concede eight penalties just in this discipline stat, a proof of improvement from the home side.
While Delta's inability to handle the ball made it impossible to pressure consistently Devils defensive structure (17 forced errors), the top highlight from this Low Countries derby have to go to the Belgians strong mental statement whose main goal was to gnaw, break and overpower in the set-piece, so they could build a sound and stable platform to launch an incisive run and go for the points, dropping the nervous/unsteady vibe that compromised their chances in the 1st round.
Two players lead the Devils and both deserve recognition: Hugo Bestin And Ryan Godsmark. The flanker played full throttle, speeding the ball every time he got a chance to play, with a brutal physicality helping him to break some tackles, as it happened on his try. As for the second one, the scrumhalf was essential for controlling the tempo of the match, reading the opposition gameplan with ease, and you could see that in how he pressured and turnover the ball in what lead to the Belgian franchise second try.
There was harmony, efficiency, and certainty in the Devils, making just 3 forced errors on the first 40 minutes, holding and passing well the oval ball in their hands, something that didn’t happen a week ago, and this detail was what changed the course of this second match.
We wanted to see if the Brussels Devils had the capability to bounce back and contest and the Belgians showed this weekend, they aren't here just to make the numbers.
Lusitanos and The Art on how to defend and never lose your cool
There are few things more certain than taxes, death, and that a match between Portuguese and Spanish is fought until the last whistle, as it was the case in this 2nd round.
The Iberians had one last chance to go for the tie, with a lineout at the footsteps of Lusitanos try line, with everyone expecting an unstoppable rolling maul coming for the 5/7 points. But, and there's almost always a "but" when expecting something unstoppable, the Portuguese held their ground, forced the Spanish foes to break the maul and opt for a pick&go showoff, which would crumble thanks to a quick jackal from António Cerejo (that meant much more than a penalty, as it was last play of this tight, hard and emotional victory.
No doubt that the quickplay and greater speed from the Lusitanos backline was decisive to come from a seven-point disadvantage at half-time (Rodrigo Marta, José dos Santos, and Nuno Sousa Guedes were a level 5 threat), but the major highlight should go to the Portuguese defensive gameplan and composure, clinically tackling the heavier Iberians team and launching themselves in the breakdown, snatching 6 match-winning penalties.
Even if they conceded some errors at the scrum and lineout, the Lusitanos team made sure to never lose their cool and patience, working in perfect harmony, with the likes of João Granate, Manuel Picão, António Cerejo, Tomás Appleton, Rodrigo Marta, and Vasco Ribeiro being insatiable in their defensive duties, be that it tackling, disrupting the ruck, supporting the first tackler or quickly go back to the defensive line, limiting Iberians attacking options which forced them to rely on the maul as the most certain way to go for the try line.
Patrice Lagisquet might not have liked how his side played in the first half, but it's all about the endgame and that was well accomplished, laying on top of the Western pool after two rounds. A great offensive display wins games, a great defensive exhibition clutches trophies.
STATS OF THE ROUND
Point scorer of the round: Ramil Gaisin (Enisei) – 14 points
Try scorer of the round: Viktor Kononov (Enisei) – 2 tries
Team with the highest win of the round: Enisei – 44 points
Team with the most tries of the round: Enisei – 6 tries
By Francisco Issac
Images: Andrey Demin, Laurent Lefebvre and Manuel A. González