Rugby / European Nations Cup / Israel Thrashes Serbia to Top Group

Hosts score eight tries in controlled display.

Israel justified its promotion to the European Nations Cup qualifying group B2 by opening its campaign with an emphatic 48-22 victory over Serbia at the Wingate Institution stadium on Saturday.

The hosts soaked up early pressure before winger Ronen Tollman made a swerving run from the half-way line, evading four tackles en route to scoring a brilliant opening try after only five minutes.

From the outset, Israel played the more controlled rugby while the Serbs were guilty of several fumbles, and lacked cohesion. The home pack tackled like lions, while its back line was never hesitated to launch forays from their own half.

Buoyed by 1,500 vocal fans and a carnival atmosphere, Israel launched wave after wave of multi-phase attacks, consistently setting up the back line with clean ball until number eight Misha Eli crashed through the Serbian defense for the second try, which Tollman converted.

Ra'anan Penn's well-organized team then proceeded to turn the screw, and Matan Brosh crowned a period of relentless pressure by powering over for Israel's third try after half an hour. At this point, it was one-way traffic, and fly-half Modi Radshkovits combined with scrum-half Ethan Humphries for a free-running fourth try that saw the hosts 24-3 ahead at half time. The Israelis were running the Serbs ragged, and the second half opened in similar style as Adrian Reinstein stole the ball and danced through the Serbian defense to score, making it 31-3.

But the home team took its foot off the pedal, and Serbia scored two consolation tries in quick succession for 31-17, only for the Israeli pack to show who was still boss, with a mighty pushover try from a five-meter scrum, nominally awarded to Nimrod Kaplan. Kaplan capped another team move with his second try minutes later.

Israel's eighth try of the day began with a searing run from Modi Radshkovits that split the Serbian defense before he passed for Fabian Magid to touch the ball down.

"It was an excellent result for us," an elated Penn said after the game. "I'm extremely happy with how the boys played."

On October 27, the national team will travel to meet Andorra, which drew 6-6 against Denmark yesterday, in the other Group B2 game.

Roy Kamiel