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Six Nations? Now we have the One Nation
ESPN Staff
March 18, 2014
Six Nations? Welcome to the One Nation. Crimea take on Russia hours before the referendum decided they should all become one © Getty Images

While Sunday's referendum in Crimea has been denounced overseas as a farce, 24 hours earlier Russia and Crimea played each other in a rugby match in Simferopol. The final score - 59-59 - was considered by many to be as dubious as the poll.

Despite being played in Crimea, the Russians used the home changing rooms. As a largely professional side, drawn from the country's new pro league and 19th in the IRN world rankings, they should also have easily won against a side which in IRB terms does not exist as a national entity.

In the first half Crimea were poor and went into the break trailing 40-17 but a surprising second-half recovery saw them snatch a draw.

A small crowd seemed largely ignorant of the sport being played out in front of them - tries and kicks passed almost unnoticed - and contented themselves with pro-Russian referendum chants.

Russian officials declined to answer questions as to when the match had been arranged, but Ukraine's coach, Grigoriy Zakhlivny, claimed preparations started only a week ago and were initiated by the Russians.

The post-match comments were clearly political with a stream of rhetoric about sport overcoming divides. "We hope that our friendly relationship will always endure," chirped Russia's Sergei Mountian, bravely overcoming his bitter disappointment at his country's second-half collapse. "Russia and Crimea are united."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd