The return of Rugby World Cup 2019 stars such as fly-half Yury Kushnarev and flanker Tagir Gadzhiev helped Russia to a 32-25 victory against Romania on Saturday – a win that sees them climb four places to 20th in the World Rugby Men's Rankings as well as virtually guaranteeing them their place in next year's Rugby Europe Championship.
For Romania, though, the defeat leaves them bottom of the table with everything resting on next weekend's home game against fellow strugglers Belgium.
Losing two men to the sin-bin in the first half meant it was always going to be an uphill task for Romania in Krasnodar, but despite their numerical disadvantage, Andy Robinson's men were only one score behind at the interval.
After Ramil Gaisin and Florin Vlaicu slotted a pair of penalties apiece, Romania centre Moa Mua Maliepo scored the game's first try on the half-hour mark and Vlaicu added the conversion.
Romania were not able to close out the half, though, and tries from forwards Egor Zykov and Shamil Magomedov – the second coming after Cristi Chirica had become the second Oaks player to be sin-binned, after an earlier offence from Robert Neagu – saw Russia hold a 20-13 advantage at the break.
Kirill Golosnitskiy's try shortly after the restart pushed Russia further out in front but Oaks full-back Ionel Melinte kept his side in touch with a try out wide on 54 minutes.
The game remained finely balanced until Kushnarev blasted his way over from close range and then converted his own try to give Russia a 32-18 lead with 10 minutes to go.
In the final play of the game, winger Marius Simionescu spun out of two tackles and dotted down in the right corner to earn Romania what could be a vital losing bonus point.
Georgia made to work hard for title
At the other end of the table, Georgia clinched the title with a 39-24 win over their nearest rivals Portugal at the Stade Jean Bouin in Paris.
Having taken the fixture on the road to showcase their ability to the large Portuguese diaspora in the French capital, Os Lobos gave a very good account of themselves and actually led 24-22 just past the hour mark, thanks to 12 points from the boot of try-scoring winger Dany Antunes and additional scores from Manuel Pinto and Joao Belo.
Georgia had managed to score four tries themselves up until that point through Shalva Mamukashvili, Beka Gorgadze, David Kacharava and Beka Saginadze. But with only one conversion landed, it took a three-try burst in the final 11 minutes for the Lelos to see off the Portuguese, Demuri Tapladze and Soso Matiashvili crossing the line after a penalty try had seen them retake the lead.
With only 0.18 of a point on offer for the bonus-point win, Georgia were not able to improve on 12th place. The marginal loss was not enough alone to cost Portugal but Russia's win sees them drop a place to 21st.
Spain battle past Belgium
The game in Brussels between Belgium and Spain took a similar path to the one in Paris with the home side enjoying a slender 20-18 lead with just over a quarter left to play before Spain upped the ante and came away with the points.
Leading 13-0 inside the first quarter following a try from Nicolas Nieto and eight points from the boot of Andrea Rabago, Spain had looked on course for a comfortable victory, but a converted try in the 25th minute from second-row Mathieu Verschelden gave the Black Devils a much-needed foothold in the game.
Alan Williams' penalty at the start of the second half was then followed by a converted try for Verschelden's second-row partner Gillian Benoy as Belgium stunned Spain to take a 17-13 lead. A drop goal by Williams – the eighth of his international career – pushed the Blacks Devils further in front before Spain responded with the first of two tries from full-back Federico Casteglioni.
Replacement front-row Vicente Del Hoyo crashed over to put Spain ahead before Casteglioni secured victory with his second as the match drew to a close. There was still time, though, for Belgium to deservedly get a losing bonus point from the match through the boot of Williams.
Spain's rating has gone up by just under four tenths to 67.14 points with the gap between themselves and Uruguay in 17th now down to less than three tenths.
Marginal gains for Six Nations winners
In the Six Nations, home wins for England and Scotland did not result in any change to their respective rankings (third and eighth) but both countries boosted their ratings.
England's has gone up by just over a tenth to 88.41 after their thrilling 33-30 win over Wales at Twickenham, while Scotland are now 1.13 points better off than they were before having ended France's Grand Slam dreams with a rousing 28-17 victory at Murrayfield.
Both games featured red cards as well as some cracking tries, the pick of the bunch arguably being Justin Tipuric's effort straight from the restart which sparked a Welsh comeback in the second half.
Four teams – England, France, Scotland and Ireland – still have a mathematical chance of winning the Six Nations with Eddie Jones' side top of the table on points difference from Les Bleus. Scotland are three points behind on 10 points with Ireland, who have a game in hand, a point further back. Wales and Italy are left to contest the wooden spoon.
Wales stay sixth in the rankings but the gap between themselves and the higher-ranked Les Bleus is now down to just under one tenth.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands' 36-17 win against Lithuania in the Rugby Europe Trophy did not have any impact on the rankings due to the points differential between the teams before home advantage is factored in.