Hong Kong find the going tough against powerful Russia
The Russian Bear was not only powerful, it showed it can move nimbly as well, running in three tries in a comfortable 31-10 victory over Hong Kong at King's Park on Saturday.
If not for a last act of defiance from winger Rowan Varty, whose solitary try gave the home fans something to cheer about, Hong Kong would have had few bright moments to mull over as they look to Saturday's second test.
All it took was one moment of inspiration from substitute scrum-half Charles Cheung Ho-ning to create a rare opportunity for Hong Kong. It came late in the game with Hong Kong trailing 26-3 and their opponents down to 14 men after winger Andrei Ostrokov had been sin-binned.
Russia lost a line-out just inside their own half and Cheung was quick on the uptake, opting to use the blindside realising that the Russian right winger was off the field. Varty did the rest.
Yes, Hong Kong will need to look at the positives and draw some confidence against a team who were superior up front and used that to good advantage.
Russia led 23-3 by half-time with tries by Ostrokov - a high-stepping run from 30 metres out - and Igor Galinovskiy, who charged down a poor clearance to touch down.
Fly-half Iurii Kushnarev had knocked over the conversions and three more penalties in a first half of one-way traffic, with a Jamie Hood penalty the only answer for Hong Kong.
"I don't think we gave a good account of ourselves and what we can do. There were glimpses in the second half, when we showed what we can do, but not enough of that," said disappointed Hong Kong coach Andrew Hall.
With one hand on the Ustinov Cup - named after Mikhail Ustinov, the first native Russian consul-general to Hong Kong in 1900 - Russia will look at polishing up their act.
"Our job is not over," said Russian skipper and fullback Vasily Artemyev. "We are here to blood seven new caps as we look at a change of generation with the failure to qualify for the World Cup next year. Overall we are happy but we need to brush up on our mistakes."