Emerging Ireland were minutes away from clinching the IRB Nations Cup a round early only for Romania to snatch victory against Russia and keep the tournament alive.
Romania 20-18 Russia
By Chris Thau, with additional reporting by Marius Matache
Two penalty tries, the second and third of the day, in the last quarter of a rumbustious, ill-disciplined encounter between the two East European arch-rivals saw an out-of-sorts Romania nudge past an assertive but limited Russia, by two points, to keep them in contention for the coveted IRB Nations Cup trophy.
The Oaks will now play Emerging Ireland in a winner-takes-all decider on Sunday, knowing that a vastly improved performance is necessary if they are to retain the trophy they have held for the past two years.
The only memorable event of a match beset by controversy was the new tournament record of 129 points set by Romania’s kicking champion Florin Vlaicu, who landed the first penalty in the eighth minute after the Russian captain, Alexander Voytov was sent to the sin-bin - the first of the six yellow cards dished out on the day by Canadian referee Chris Assmus.
Fly half Ramil Gaysin brought Russia level with a penalty not long after, as it quickly became apparent that the seven changes made in the Russian starting line-up to the one beaten so badly by Emerging Ireland, especially in the front row, were having a rejuvenating effect.
Russia were able to frustrate the Romanian’s attempts to control the match, containing them when they did not have the ball while also taking the first proper try scoring chance that came their way through Siberian hard man Andrey Temnov.
Both sides lost men to the sin-bin early in the second half, but it was Russia who capitalised on the extra space to score next through left wing Vladimir Ostroushko. Russia now led 18-6 with 10 minutes to go and appeared on course for their first win over Romania in five years.
But, by now, the host nation’s pack was well on top and their Russian counterparts, depleted by the loss of two more men to the sin-bin, were powerless to prevent the concession of two late penalty tries.
Not acceptable - Howells
Judging by his post-match demeanour and comments, Romania head coach Lynn Howells is likely to make wholesale changes to his team for Sunday’s finale against Emerging Ireland.
“I didn’t expect Romania to play as badly as that,” Howells said. “I was very disappointed with the way we played.
“There was no structure to the game, to be perfectly honest. The people saying that it was the worst match Romania have played in the last few years are probably correct. We were void of ideas. We dominated the scrum, we dominated the lineouts, and to play rugby like that it’s not acceptable.
“But I look forward to Sunday’s game, where there are no ranking points at stake. That takes all the pressure away and it will be a good game of rugby between sides with two different styles."
Emerging Ireland 51-3 Uruguay
Emerging Ireland demonstrated their class in beating Uruguay 51-3 in Bucharest on Wednesday to make two wins out of two in this year’s IRB Nations Cup.
The final scoreline was perhaps a little harsh on the industrious Uruguayans, but ultimately they were no match for a team made up entirely of full-time professionals schooled in a High Performance environment.
Early on, Los Teros attacked with the ball in hand and occasionally managed to break through the iron-clad Irish defence, only to lose the ball in contact or knock it forward. They did, however, have the honour of taking the lead when Joaquin Prada kicked a fourth minute penalty.
Pablo Lemoine’s team tackled their hearts out when not in possession and in the set-piece they scrummed low and hard, getting on top of the Irish on several occasions.
But overall there was no disputing the gulf between the two sides, with the Irish demonstrating a superior skill set in passing and kicking and able to inject pace into the game at will.
Gilroy opens the scoring
Ulster's Craig Gilroy, playing at full back, did just that on seven minutes when he sliced his way through the Teros’ defence for the first of seven Irish tries.
Lock Michael Kearney and number 8 Paddy Butler, with the first of his two tries, also got their names on the scoresheet as the Irish went into the break 22-3 up.
Eleven minutes after the re-start Butler grabbed his second before the Irish confirmed their total domination with a penalty try and scores for Billy Holland and Paul Marshall while the Uruguayans were short-handed following their second and third yellow cards of the match.
“It’s a good win for us but I don’t think we are too happy with our accuracy at times and we definitely need plenty of work before playing Romania on Sunday,” said Irish captain Johne Murphy.
“We scored some good tries, but I am sure we could definitely do better especially if you think about the number of knock-ons and turnovers we had.
“Uruguay were very determined and their tackling was fantastic, they kept going to the end and pushed us all the way, despite the score,” he added.
Reflecting on his side’s loss, Uruguay captain Joaquin Prada said: “It was a very difficult game: hard and intense. We knew that Ireland is an excellent team, playing at a much higher level than us; they are professional players and their win is beyond doubt. We are not demoralised though and look forward to the important match with Russia - a very important test for us looking at the World Cup.”
'Get Into Rugby' - inspiring Romania's youth
Growing participation and interest in Rugby at a young age is vital to the development of the sport in all countries, especially Tier 2 countries like Romania.
Earlier in the week players from the four competing nations were on hand to lend their support to a Tag Rugby Festival involving 80 children from local clubs and schools at the National Stadium in Bucharest.
The festival is a by-product of the IRB initiative “Get into Rugby” and is organised by the Romanian Rugby Federation (FRR) as part of a wider nationwide development programme.
RWC 2019 Tickets
RWC 2019 Official Ticketing site NOW LIVE
Fans can now register interest to apply for Rugby World Cup 2019 tickets