England RU Counties XV managed the opening win they were looking for when they scored four tries to one to beat Siberian side Krasnoyarsk 27-16 in the city's Central Stadium today (Thursday).

With limited preparation time, the Counties were always expecting a stiff test against a side containing a large proportion of the Russian National team and their hosts lived up to their billing.

Though they trailed 13-3 at half-time, Krasnoyarsk rallied early in the second-half to draw level and then collected a brace of penalties to take the game to the wire after England had moved in front with a try by flanker Mike Blakeburn.

The Russian side opened the scoring with a penalty by wingman Artem Lubkov and he kept his side in touch with a conversion and four penalties, centre Igor Galinovsky finding the only flaw in a solid Counties defence to level the scores after 57 minutes.

The Counties side, the representative flagship of the club and County game outside the Guinness Premiership, were well organised and energetic in defence, but the cohesion of the team was inevitably flawed at times.

There was imagination in the cross-field kick from fly-half Mark Woodrow that brought the opening try for prop James Tideswell and the second try from wingman Paul Jarvis owed much to a smartly taken free kick by scrum-half Paul Knight.

Woodrow's earlier penalty left the Counties in a strong position at the break, but Krasnoyarsk got back into the game and it needed a 40-yard gallop by number eight Gregor Hayter to set up Blakeburn's score.

The home side came back again to leave the game precariously balanced at 20-19, but in injury time centre Mark Bedworth sliced through at the posts for Woodrow to convert.

"I thought our performance was much as expected," said manager Jim Robinson.

"There were some very good bits and some bits where the cohesion just wasn't there, but there are good things to work on and we'll take the positives and move on.

"I thought Mike Blakeburn was immense in the back row and Mark Bedworth had some good moments in the backs, but overall everybody made a contribution, especially in some tight defensive situations."

Coach David Baldwin also singled our Blakeburn's back-row colleagues Chris Rainbow and Gregor Hayter for praise.

He said: "I'm obviously delighted with a win. I thought we strung a few things together in the first-half, but the second-half was patchy, very stop-start, and we never got back into a rhythm.

England Counties XV: Oliver Viney (Preston Grasshoppers); Hamish Smales (Tynedale), Arran Cruickshanks (Devon & Plymouth Albion), Mark Bedworth (Yorkshire & Wharfedale), Tom Jarvis (Gloucestershire & Lydney) (Frankie Neale, Kent & Blackheath, 70); Mark Woodrow (Gloucestershire & Doncaster), Paul Knight (Gloucestershire & Moseley) (Chris Pilgrim, Cheshire & Loughborough Colleges); Duncan Cormack (Surrey & Esher) captain, Liam Wordley (Staffordshire & Henley), James Tideswell (North Midlands & Stourbridge), Alex Davidson (North Midlands & Pertemps Bees) (James Winterbottom, Middlesex & Henley, 70), David Campton (Warwickshire & Coventry), Chris Rainbow (Hertfordshire & Newbury) (Neil Spence, Bradford & Bingley, 61), Mike Blakeburn (Surrey & Esher), Gregor Hayter (Oxfordshire & Newbury) (Glenn Cooper, Somerset & Newbury, 80).