The Tel-Aviv Heat completed an enthralling turnaround against Lokomotiv Penza in their Western Conference clash, as they came from behind to win 29-23 in the Mordovia Arena, Saransk.
After getting their first win as a club against Black Lion, the team were looking to build on it and help them climb up the table and keep themselves in contention for a semi-final spot.
The win keeps the Heat in 3rd but brings them to within 3 points of league leaders, Enisei-STM, who have a major advantage of having acquired 3 bonus points, whereas the Heat have 0.
“After a slow start , we really hit our straps, playing some of our best attacking rugby of the round. We all enjoyed ourselves out there, playing in a great stadium and relishing the chance to represent the Tel Aviv Heat. 2 wins on the road is a great achievement and hopefully we can take that momentum through to Israel as we prepare for 3 big games in Tel Aviv.” Nic Groom, Tel-Aviv Heat captain
The Heat appeared to be feeling the effects of their recent travels as they started slowly, allowing the home side to take advantage of an early foul to kick over for 3 points through kicker, Sergey Yanushkin.
Just 3 minutes later and further pressure on the Heat defence forced another mistake, giving Yanushkin an easy kick at goal to double the lead.
In the 18th minute Lokomotiv scored their first try of the game, a quality passing move that started on one side of the pitch, drawing in and stretching the Heat defence before Valeriy Khlutkov found space on the right wing to cross over.
Yanushkin successfully converted for a further 2 points before the Heat made another unforced foul, which Yanushkin took full advantage of, giving Locomotiv a lead of 16 without reply.
It took until just after the half-hour mark for the Heat to get some points on the board.
Despite the home side stopping two try-attempts on the line in a row, Sebastiaan Jobbs, the Heats top try scorer, found space on the left wing to cross over, with kicker Jordan Chait ading the conversion.
Finding their feet and confidence after that try, the Heat appeared to wake up and put the Lokomotiv defence under some extreme pressure.of their own.
An unforced error gave Chait a chance to kick at goal from the 10, just inside the Lokomotiv half, which he converted to perfection, making the score 10-16 to Lokomotiv at the half.
The second half began, and the Heat carried on from where they left off, putting the home side under incredible pressure and scoring a try within 5 minutes of the restart.
With captain Nicholas Groom urging his players on, the Heat got to the Lokomotiv try line before passing the ball out wide to Jobb who used his pace and power to get through his defender, and over for the try.
Chait continued his good kicking form by converting the 2 extra points, and giving the Heat the lead for the first time in the match, 16-17.
The Heat continued to cause the Lokomotiv defence problems, finding holes in their line and through strong running and excellent offloading of the ball to runners, they found Kieran Houlston in a similar space to Jobb who pushed through two defenders and score a try.
Chait missed the conversion but that didn’t damper the confidence of the Heat players, as just minutes later they were crossing the try line once again, this time through Gabriel Ibitoye.
Some gritty pressure from the Heat opened up a space for Ibitoye who, thanks to some quick thinking from Groom to get the ball out to him and catch the defence by surprise, managed to dive over the line.
Chait converted for two points to extend their lead to 13 points before the Heat had a man sin binned, giving the home team a chance to score an extra try to secure a bonus point.
It took until the 81st minute but the Heat, defending with a man down, allowed Rudi Van Rooyen to sell a dummy pass, opening up a space for him to cross over, winning the bonus point for his team.
Yanushkin then converted the kick but it was too little, too late as the Heat ran out 29-23 winners and secured their second win of the tournament.
Head Coach, Kevin Musikanth, commented: “Awesome for the second week in a row for the Tel-Aviv Heat to come from a deficit, and win against a tough Lokomotiv Penza team.
“The team showed true character to claw back 16 points, push ahead and then seemingly look like they would win going away.
“Two wins away from home against very difficult opposition is a job well done.
“We now look forward to getting home and preparing for Round 2.”
The Heat will now travel back to Israel to play their home games against their group rivals after the November break, when they’ll recuperate and make a push for a semi-final spot in the Western Conference.