Tel-Aviv Heat lost their first ever game at home in Israel to Enisei-STM and slipped to third in their Eastern Conference match.
It was their second match in a week after they defeated Locomotiv Penza to make it 3 wins on the bounce, and the team headed into the game high on confidence.
Enisei-STM knew they had to win to give themselves the best chance of qualifying from the group and make the play-offs.
Enisei flew out of the blocks in the first minute as their forwards pushed the Heat’s defence back to their own try line.
With the Heat defence caught off guard by the fast start, Enisei found a gap to score the first try of the game.
Enisei continued to push forward and some fantastic off-loading from their runners gave Evgeny Elgin the chance to weave through to score.
Following a successful conversion by kicker Ramil Gaisin, Enisei found themselves 14-0 up after just 7 minutes and appeared to be in complete control.
However, the Heat soon hit back through Misaele Petero after a mazy run by both Gabriel Ibitoye and Niall Saunders.
Two last-ditch tackles by the Enisei defence were countered by two last-second offloads to the Heat runners and at the end was Petero to score the his teams’ first try of the game.
Captain Jordan Chait continued his good form in front of the posts by converting the extra 2 points.
It took just just 2 minutes for Enisei to score their third try of the game as the Heat once again were caught napping.
An Enisei line-out on the 10 yard line was craftily thrown straight towards the second man in the lineout, taking the Heat completely by surprise and leaving the Enisei man to cross the line almost unchallenged.
Both teams started playing a lot more defensive to try and stop the free-scoring however in the 38th minute, Enisei man Azamat Bitiev was sent to the sin bin which gave the Heat an opportunity to cut the deficit by half-time.
With just a minute left to play, the Heat stretched the play across to the left wing to Ibitoye who kicked the ball through the Enisei defence for winger Kieran Houlston to run on to and touch the ball down past the try line.
Half-time: Tel-Aviv Heat 12-19 Enisei-STM
With Enisei still a man down, the Heat looked to take full advantage.
They were able to move the ball quickly from the right wing to the left, finding Houlston who drove through his man to score his second try of the match.
Chait missed the resulting conversion but it appeared that the momentum had swung in the favour of the home side.
With the score 17-19, Enisei were struggling being a man down however a strong drive by their forwards meant they found themselves just yards from the Heat’s try line.
Despite some strong defence from the Heat, Enisei managed to power themselves over the line to score and give themselves a 9 point advantage.
Enisei then further capitalised on having their sin-binned man back on the pitch and the Heat being disheartened by once again finding space on the left-wing by creating a ruck to score a try.
On 56 minutes, a flying tackle by Sebastiaan Jobb slowed down a fast break by the away team, causing them to lose the ball from a loose pass which Ibitoye managed to recover and sprint down the wing to score his first try of the match.
Chait score the resulting conversion to make it 24-31, putting his side within 7 points with 23 minutes left to play.
The Heat then suffered a setback as Jasa Veremalua was handed a yellow card for holding onto the ball for too long, giving the advantage to Enisei as the Heat would be a man down for 10 minutes.
The Heat were immediately put under pressure however, a long kick from Chait through the middle of the pitch to relieve the pressure but a missed recovery by Enisei gave Saunders a free run under the posts to score his 3rd try of the game.
Chait then converted the kick to make the scores even at 31-31 with just 4 minutes to play.
Enisei put the Heat under pressure on the 20 yard line and forced them to knock the ball on, allowing Gaisin to kick the ball through the posts to score 3 points and win the game.
Full Time: Tel-Aviv Heat 31-34 Enisei-STM
In what was a thrilling game for both sets of fans, it was Enisei-STM that managed to secure the win they badly needed and has given them a great chance of making the play-offs.
The result leaves the Heat needing to beat Eastern Conference favourites Black Lion in the penultimate game of the group stages, while hoping Locomotiv Penza can get a result against Enisei.