Tel-Aviv Heat defeated close rivals Lokomotiv Penza 33-14 to complete the double over them in the Eastern Conference clash.
The win saw the Heat climb to the top of their group on 13 points with a game in hand over second-place Black Lion, who play on Saturday.
It kicked off the start of a grueling 3 game schedule over just 8 days as the team have to make up for matches that were cancelled due to Covid.
Next up for the Heat are Enisei-STM in what is a must-win game for the Israel outfit, as they bid to reach the Super Cup play-offs at the first time of asking.
Both teams were desperate to start the match off in style and get some early points on the board.
Following an early foul, stand-in captain Jordan Chaith stepped up to kick over for 3 points and was able to double that with another soon after, giving the Heat a 6 point lead after 11 minutes.
Just 3 minutes later however, Penza captain and kicker Sergey Yanushkin halved the deficit by sending the ball cleanly through the posts.
The importance of kicking is often on show during matches and this was no different, as Chaith helped the Heat extend their lead to 6 points once again to make it 9-3, with 20 minutes played.
The 6 point advantage didn’t last long however, as some poor play by the Heat near their try line saw them penalised for holding the ball for too long, giving Yanushkin an easy conversion in front of the posts.
The last 15 minutes of the half saw some strong defence from Penza, leaving the Heat frustrated and the second half in the balance.
Half-time: Tel-Aviv Heat 9-6 Locomotiv Penza
The Heat started the second half as if they were still in the changing rooms, as some good pressure from the Penza forwards opened up space on the left wing for Ilia Spanderashvili to score the first try of the game.
Despite missing the conversion, Penza were able to take advantage of a frustrated Heat defence as they forced another penalty.
Revaz Brodzeli made up for the missed conversion by adding 3 points and made it 14-9 after the hour mark.
If the Heat were stunned by this comeback then they recovered quickly, as just a minute later they were on the front-foot.
Forceful running by Gabriel Ibitoye helped create some space on the right wing and Nemani Buliruarua found a gap between two defenders to score his first try of the game.
With the game even at 14-14, the Heat sent a kick from deep into Penza’s half to take the pressure off the defence.
As the Penza defender chased the ball back towards his teams’ try line, the defender misjudged the balls bounce which allowed Ibitoye to pick up and pass to Niall Saunders to score.
Chaith added the two conversion points to make it 21-14.
With just 5 minutes to go, the Heat secured the win with a further two tries.
Renaldo Bothma led a quickly taken penalty just 10 yards from the try line and managed to push through 2 defenders to score.
Just 4 minutes later and Ibitoye, after a mazy run through 3 defenders, scored the final try of the game.
Chaith stepped up to score the conversion to help secure the bonus point for his team.
Full-Time: Tel-Aviv Heat 34–16 Locomotiv Penza
Coach Kevin Musikanths said: “I was very proud of the character shown at the end of the first half where we defended our try line and didn’t let Penza in to take the half time lead.
“Once again in the second half we found ourselves behind and we clawed back to level and then took the lead and scored our bonus point try.
“And then again defended our try line at the end of the game to ensure we came away with the bonus point – very proud of the team…”