Romania's dominance of the World Rugby Nations Cup continued on Saturday as the Oaks defeated fellow unbeaten side Argentina XV 20-8 on a hot and humid night in Bucharest.
The victory earned the Oaks their fourth Nations Cup title in five years and followed on from last year's success over Argentina Jaguars in the deciding game of the tournament.
Namibia claimed third place, finishing level on points with runner-up Argentina XV, after coming from behind for the second match in a row to beat Emerging Italy, who ended the tournament in fourth ahead of Uruguay on points difference. Spain, meanwhile, lost all three of their matches to prop up the table.
OAKS' DOMINANCE CONTINUES
Romania came out on top in a low-scoring affair to again claim the World Rugby Nations Cup silverware.
The Oaks' tries came from hooker Andrei Radoi and full-back Catalin Fercu while resolute defence threatened to shut the Argentinians out until Franco Brarda grabbed a consolation six-pointer on 68 minutes.
Having seen record points scorer Florin Vlaicu (pictured) miss two attempts at goal in the first quarter Romania opted to go for the corner when presented with a third opportunity on the half-hour mark, with the scores still tied at 0-0. Romania secured lineout possession, and after the initial maul was repelled by the Argentine defence, Radoi burrowed his way over from close range for his second international try of the year. Vlaicu added the conversion.
Argentina XV pressed for the equalising score as half-time approached but superb defence on their goal-line by Romania kept them at bay. The rearguard action didn’t come without a cost, however, as scrum-half Valentin Calafeteanu was judged to have deliberately knocked on when opposite number Felipe Ezcurra attempted a try-scoring pass to his winger. But the numbers were evened up when Argentine tight-head Lucas Martinez joined him in the sin-bin a minute later. Vlaicu then kicked a straightforward penalty to hand the home side a 10-0 lead at the break.
No further points were scored until the final minute of the third quarter when Oaks full-back Fercu crossed for a popular try. With the conversion and a further penalty Romania found themselves in control at 20-0 and on the verge of nilling an Argentinian outfit in the Nations Cup title decider for the second year running.
However, Felipe Contepomi’s side avoided the fate that befell the Jaguars, who lost 23-0 in the 2015 edition, when replacement Brarda crossed the line with 12 minutes to go.
"It was a good win, and a good tournament," said triumphant Romania coach Lynn Howells. "We tested seven players and they all proved themselves worthy, I am really proud of them."
NAMIBIA SERVE UP ANOTHER LATE SHOW
Namibia’s never-say-die spirit was again in evidence as they came from behind to beat Emerging Italy 38-26.
Having snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against Spain in round two, it took three tries in the final quarter for the Welwitschias to overhaul the Italians and record their second bonus-point win of the competition in the space of five days.
Emerging Italy had built up a 12-0 lead in the first half an hour after Paolo Pescetto kicked two penalties and converted scrum-half Giorgio Bronzini’s try, before the Welwitschias finally got their first points on the scoreboard.
Hooker Gert Lotter’s try from a driven lineout, which Theuns Kotze converted, only provided temporary respite as Emerging Italy closed the half with their lead back into double figures when Federico Conforti crossed for his second try of the tournament.
Namibia started the second half strongly and they closed the gap to two points when winger Wilson dotted down on 43 minutes for the first of his two tries and Kotze turned the six points into eight with the conversion.
The next try went to the Italians, 22-year-old winger Andrea Bettin crossing 10 minutes after Namibia scored. Pescotto converted to make it 26-16.
Namibia used their rolling maul to good effect again and when veteran Tinus du Plessis went over with just over a quarter of the match to play, and Kotze converted, they were right back in it.
Shortly after replacement forward Guiseppe di Stefano was yellow-carded, full-back Johan Trump put Namibia in front for the first time with three minutes remaining, and Wilson completed the comeback with his second just before referee Damian Schneider blew for time.
With two wins, Namibia finish third at the Nations Cup, a commendable performance considering they finished bottom 12 months ago.
“This was an important win for the country, after the good performance in the Rugby World Cup," said Namibia coach Phil Davies. "It is a big lift for the boys to secure two wins out of there against quality opposition. We are trying to develop our game and this win, based on a combination of flair and courage, as well as frustration, has done just that. We are moving forward as we prepare for our next tournament, the Africa Cup.
Emerging Italy blindside flanker and captain Conforti bemoaned his side’s inability to stay focused for the full 80 minutes. “We had a good tournament against very tough teams, and of course we gave 100 per cent. Probably we didn’t respect our game plan during the last 10 minutes and offered the opposition opportunities to score tries.”
LOS TEROS WARM TO THE TASK
Uruguay ended their World Rugby Nations Cup campaign on a winning note with a 16-0 victory against Spain in the opening game of the day.
A stop-start first half, frequently punctuated by water breaks due to the sizzling hot weather in the Romanian capital, failed to produce any points as both sides struggled to get any sort of continuity in their attacking game.
Spain were also inhibited by the loss of two key players to injury midway through the first half with lively scrum-half Facundo Munilla (dead leg) and number eight and captain Jaime Nava (dislocated shoulder) leaving the field of play within two minutes of each other.
In the 30th minute Spain winger Juan Goia Iriberri was dispatched to the sin-bin but Los Leones managed to keep their line intact for the remainder of the half.
Playing on what was thought to be the hottest day of the year in Bucharest, with temperatures reaching 35°C, Uruguay warmed to their task in the second half and scored nine minutes after the re-start through captain Juan Manuel Gaminara, with Martin Secco added the extras.
At that stage Spain were down to 14 men again following a second yellow card to tight-head prop Jesus Moreno Rodriguez.
After a further 25 minutes without any points Uruguay doubled their tally when they were awarded an eight-point penalty try by Romanian referee Vlad Iordachescu after putting Spain under relentless pressure in the scrum.
"We had to win today and and we played well despite the weather. I wish to congratulate my players for their spirit and attitude. They have given their all," said Los Teros coach Esteban Meneses.
Meneses' opposite number, Spain coach Santiago Santos, admitted the loss of two key players was costly to their chances of ending the tournament with a win. "We are a little bit disappointed because we go back to Spain without a single win. It was a match which we dominated at the beginning, but we did not score, and that cost us dearly. Then we lost two very important players, our scrum-half and captain, and that was a big disruption. Finally, we made too many mistakes and our discipline was not very good. But we had a good experience; we have learnt a lot."
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