IRB Nations Cup
Emerging South Africa retain Nations Cup
By Chris Thau
Emerging South Africa retained for the second consecutive year the IRB Nations trophy, defeating Romania 25-13 in a passionate climax to the six-nation tournament at the Nations Stadium Arcul de Triumf in Bucharest.
The final stages of the match were played in a torrential rainstorm, which did not dampen the enthusiasm of the public, nor prevent the South Africans from scoring an additional try, which denied Romania a bonus point and therefore pushed them into the third position overall, with Georgia, the surprise of the tournament, moving into the silver medal position.
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In the first half the South African pack did the necessary in the tight, where they achieved a minimal edge, but were somewhat taken aback by the vivacity of the Romanian forwards in the loose, with the former wing forward Florin Corodeanu, re-cast at lock-forward and his back-row companion skipper Mersoiu, Burcea and Macovei dominating the exchanges against their highly rated opponents.
The first to put points on the board were the Romanians, through fly half Danut Dumbrava, some two minutes into the game. After about 20 minutes of sterile attacks followed by equally fruitless attempts to kick a number of penalties awarded by Italian referee Alan Falzone, South Africa skipper Morgan Newman managed to land a penalty to level the score.
A few moments later an unexpected break put South African full back Bjorn Basson through for a well-deserved try, converted by Newman. Romania returned to attack and solid South African defence as well as a number of errors prevented Mersoiu and his forwards from reaching the try line.
In the end, the Romanians had to settle for a penalty, which, with Romania fly half Dumbrava yellow-carded and off the field for a high tackle, was duly converted by centre Ionut Dimofte.
After the break, well advised by coach Chester Williams, the South Africans increased the pace and tried to move the ball wide, which failed to surprise the Romanian backs, already marshalled by veteran Romeo Gontineac, winning his 76th cap at centre.
Emerging South Africa's Ashley Johnson attacks the Romania defence during the final
Under pressure the Romanians gave away a penalty - followed by a breakaway try from a scrum near the 10-metre line signed off by the right wing Howard Noble. The try galvanised the Romanians, who attacked with the ball in hand, and after a few penalties near the line, and a yellow card for Emerging South Africa replacement flanker Zolani Mofu, Florin Corodeanu went over for a well-deserved try.
Although there is a long way yet for Romania to sit at the top table of rugby, the progress made from their tame performance in the opening match against Uruguay, to the effort in the final against Emerging South Africa, has made a clear statement about their potential and intentions.
Morgan Newman (captain Emerging South Africa):
"It's great! We are very happy because we won for the second time in a row. It's a great tournament. Romania is a very good side, but also our boys were very good, all the 26 of us played really well.
"I think we'll go now to have a few drinks. I think the boys really deserved it. We will go now back to our union for our domestic competition. Hopefully some of us will go now to the full Springboks side but we need to confirm and to play really well."
Ellis Meachen (director of Rugby Romania):
"It was a close game, we've created some opportunities in the first half, but we need some more speed. We need to find some players with good speed, because you saw the South Africans, when they create space they use their speed and score tries.
"Emerging South Africa played very good rugby and they deserved to win. It was anyway a good tournament for Romania, we have five guys who made their debuts, we started to develop a process of good skills and trust in each other in the team. We come back to the camp on the 1st of August for a trip to New Zealand and Pacific Islands, which should develop more our national team."
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