RUSSIA proved too strong for Oxford University – but the students gave a good account of themselves at Iffley Road yesterday, writes Jack Johnson.
Fielding their strongest side, with hooker Nick Gardner and No 8 John Carter returning, Oxford put in a much improved performance.
Russia, ranked 19 in the world, started the better as hooker Valery Tsnobiladze was driven over for a try after two minutes, converted by Igor Klyuchnikov.
Oxford had an opportunity almost immediately, but fly-half Charlie Marr missed a simple three-pointer and he then failed with a second penalty, hitting the left post.
Blindside flanker Gus Jones and Carter both pushed the visitors back inside their own territory as Oxford began to pick up a good rhythm, but Marr was once again unable to convert a penalty.
As the match entered a scrappy period, full back Jon Hudson did well to prevent Denis Simplikevich from running clear for a try after Alexey Shcherban’s chip.
On 30 minutes, Oxford winger Henry Lamont avoided a couple of tackles to score their first try, Marr converting.
Russia ended the half on top as Andrey Garbuzov was driven over.
Oxford made it 12-10 just after the restart with a Marr penalty, but the students began to struggle with Russia’s power and pace.
Andrey Temnov was driven over the line and Simplikevich scored No 4, Klyuchnikov adding a conversion.
The students replied almost immediately as full back Jon Hudson went over out wide, but Marr could not convert.
Russia continued to force Oxford back and Temnov went over for his second try of the match to make it 29-15.
Well-organised rucking from Oxford prevented the visitors from adding to their lead.
Oxford University: Hudson* (Commins 49), Lamont, Bramham-Law*, Turner*, Cho, Marr* (Adams-Cairns 65), Egerton*, Macdonald* (Anderson* HT), Gardner, Baker (Direen 75), Law* (Heathcote 61-64 [blood]), Rowlands, Jones (Heathcote 67), Harris, Carter* (capt) *Denotes Blue.
Russia: Klyuchnikov, Ostroushko (Otrokov 49), Trishin, Makovetskiy, Simplikevich, Sugrobov (Gaysin 55), Shcherban (Babkin 56), Volkov (Korshunov HT), V Tsnobiladze (G Tsnobiladze HT), Pronenko (Zykov HT), Voytov (Garbuzov 61, Korshunov 75), Boltenkov, Temnov (Ostroushko 59), Garbuzov (Butenko HT), Gresev.
Referee: T Wigglesworth (RFU).