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Dublin: 9°C Monday 10 May 2021


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Are we all present? Then let’s begin.

Russia are about to get their Rugby World Cup up and running with a showdown against Eddie O’Sullivan’s USA Eagles.

The teams are presently in the dressing-rooms and are about to emerge into a familiarly miserable-looking New Plymouth. Ireland could only edge out the Americans by a dozen points or so, it’ll be interesting to see how the Russians do – they’re the higher ranked outfit this morning.

Russia 3 Usa 0 We’ve started – and what a start. Less than a minute on the corporate-sponsored clock and Russia are nearly over.

A great garryowen, chase and block down and the Bears are really unlucky not to get the try. They ultimately tap over the penalty – or pelanty as Chris Waddle would say – despite the wind toppling over the ball and a fair-from-clean kick from Yury Kushnarev.

Russia 3 USA 3 Russia concede a penalty for being offside, it’s pretty much centre-on the Chris Wyles and he arrows it over. Cue shot of both male and female USA fans in star-spangled bikinis. About time.

TRY Russia 3 USA 10 Great move from the Eagles. Amongst a cacophony of ‘heaves’ from the crowd, the USA wheel the ball in the pitch and then after some quick handling, Mike Petri gets over between the posts despite the attention of the Russian full-back.

Chris Wyles makes a bags of a penalty. Setanta co-commentator, Niall Woods, helpfully explains that the American got his planted leg under the ball. I’ve done that when moving furniture.

USA are building phases and looking pretty good, Russia look fairly clueless here, particularly under pressure.

Russia kept the enemy at the gate there after a period of intense USA pressure a few metres from the try line. Ultimately all their stout work pays off, as the Bears are awarded a scrum. It’s not over quite yet I suppose.

Russia 3 USA 10 Wyles makes another mistake from a kick. The Russians had been penalised for not rolling away quickly enough but the out half dragged it across the face of the posts.

So there’s five minutes to go in this the first ever half of Russia’s world cup experience. And you can kind of tell, to be honest.

The Eagles are enjoying plenty of possession and seem to be growing in stature as the game progresses. There’s only one score in it still though thanks to some wayward kicking.

Great turnover by the Russians in the final minute of the half… As I write the Americans nick it back and the whistle goes.

HALF TIME Russia 3 USA 10

We’re underway in New Plymouth – and I’m nose deep in a coffee. So expect words-per-minute ratio to increase. No score after three minutes or so.

Probably the best bit of play from the Russians so far today as Yury Kushnarev kicks into the corner. Ngwenya wins the foot race, giving the Bears the 22 drop out.

They ultimately then win a penalty as the Americans ruck incorrectly. Kushnarev drags the attempt short and wide however.

Ooof! As I type the American prop forward Mike MacDonald unleashes what NFL players call a ‘snot-bubble’ tackle.

Amazing fielding from Chris Wyles there who then launched a break for the line. Some nice pressure now from the US.

Wyles misses another penalty. That’s three by my count. This time he hops it off the upright and the Russians clear and there’s still been no score in this second half, despite some hectic play.

These fans seem happy enough though:

Wyles misses a drop goal attempt by this much. He was right in front of the posts.

Niall Woods reckons the US are taking the right option usually but their execution lets them down.

Russia 3 USA 13 Wyles makes no mistake from the latest in a series of penalties. That’s a big, big score.

Eddie O’Sullivan’s expression hasn’t changed as he sits high in the stands with his backroom side.

Penalty to Russia. They’re going for the corner despite the most dodgy line-out since the the Usual Suspects.

Ref Dave Pearson has a lovely little chat with both captains after a little bit of the proverbial handbags between Clever and Adam Byrnes.

“You’re getting my washing bill,” he warns the Eagles talisman.

The US conceede a penalty for being offside but it’s an awful, awful miss.  The USA’s Mike MacDonald is named man-of-the-match by the way.

But there’s still eight minutes of normal time on the clock and only 10 points in it.

BOOM! Russia convert a penalty and, after gathering possession, power forward in search of that game-clinching score. They pop a harmless cross-field kick to the right wing, but the ball’s been brought back for a penalty.

Russia 6 – 13 USA

How Tom Clever has avoided a yellow card is beyond me. The flanker shoulder checked a breaking Russian out of play. He looks guilty. There’ll be a citation for that…

… forget the violence, we’re back underway. Russia are trying to roll through the phases, but they’ve knocked the ball forward! It’s over!


Russia 6 – 13 USA

It looks like Tom Clever has been confronted by the Russian captain about that shoulder charge, and rightly so; it was horrific, doubly so given the ball had already been played by the time he arrived on the scene.

“It’s an awesome feeling,” says Tom Clever, his hair streaming, Fabio-like in the breeze.

How can you stay angry at this guy?

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