IRB Nations Cup
Chris Thau rounds up the action on day two of the IRB Nations Cup at the Arcul de Triumf Stadium in Bucharest.
France A will play Scotland A on Sunday to decide the winner of this year's IRB Nations Cup after both teams recorded their second wins in Bucharest, Romania.
Scotland A, who defeated Uruguay 27-3, sit atop the pool standings after two matchdays thanks to a superior points difference to France A.
Romania produced a remarkable second-half comeback against France A, but could not quite retrieve a 17-point defict to take France A's place in the tournament decider, losing 20-16.
In the other match played on a hot, sunny day at the stadionul National Arcul de Triumf, Italy A overcame Russia 35-3.
Scotland A 27-3 Uruguay
Simon Webster scored two tries as Scotland A defeated Uruguay 27-3 in the IRB Nations Cup in Bucharest, Romania.
With the match occasionally interrupted by water-breaks in the sweltering heat of this Bucharest afternoon, it took a while until the two teams settled into a meaningful pattern.
Initially, the Scots seemed somewhat surprised by the vigour of Uruguay's challenge and after several failed attempts to cross their line, they eventually mounted a sharp and expeditious raid into the Los Teros territory, with the brilliant Simon Webster going over in the corner for the game's first try, after 20 minutes.
Los Teros, far from disintegrating under the Scottish assaults, seemed to gain additional strength and managed to put together, through their enterprising half-back partnership of Juan Campomar, the scrum half, and Jeronimo Etcheverry some meaningful attacks. They played with heart and composure and attacked the Scottish line, seemingly unruffled by their more famous opponents.
Only the excellence of the Scottish defensive effort and some poor decision-making prevented Uruguay from scoring a try. However, their progress is noticeable and Los Teros deserve full praise for their efforts and attitude. Scotland coach Andy Robinson praised Uruguay, especially their defensive organisation: "Obviously it meant everything to them," he said.
For the Uruguay match, Robinson, in an attempt to give all his players an opportunity to start, made 11 changes to the staring lineup, with the captaincy passing on from scrum half Chris Cusiter to his understudy Rory Lawson, the son of former Scotland centre Alan Lawson and grandson of the celebrated TV commentator Bill McLaren.
In fact, the McLarens must be celebrating as Bill's other nephew and Rory's first cousin full back Jim Thompson is also playing, one of the four players retained by coach Andy Robinson - wing Simon Webster, lock Alistair Kellock and wing forward Kelly Brown. Not to be left outdone Uruguay made eight changes, one positional to the team stat that started the game against Romania last week.
The retention of the experienced Webster, alongside three team A newcomers, eventually paid off, as the left wing broke the stalemate in the second half, with his second try.
Another famous name on display was that of Blair, with David the younger brother of the Scotland captain making an impressive start at fly half. A drop goal by Uruguay's fly half Etcheverry and a further Scottish try by Scott Lawson ended a most enterprising and enjoyable match in the second round of the IRB Nations Cup.
Italy A 35-3 Russia
Riccardo Bocchino scored 15 points as Italy A produced a clinical second-half performance to defeat Russia 35-3 in the second match on day two of the IRB Nations Cup.
The first half provided plenty of evidence that the tournament is fulfilling its assigned role in the IRB strategy to help aspiring Unions raise their standards, closing the gap between them and the top echelon.
For 40 minutes, the Russians consistently pounded the Italian line, but lack of control and a certain naivety in the final third cost them dearly.
It was quite uncanny to see them squandering a number of chances, with their recognised kicker Yuri Kushnarev, the fly half, having a miserable afternoon with the boot. Although he played wonderfully well as a link man and distributor, he missed two kickable penalties in front of the posts and missed a similarly kickable drop goal a few minutes later. #
With the Russians dominating the early exchanges, the Italians intercepted a ball in their 22 and launched a blistering counterattack with their talented fly half Ricardo Bocchino going over for the opening try of the match. Bocchino converted to give his side a 7-0 half-time lead.
Immediately after the break, with the Russian forwards still napping, Italy's tight-head prop Massimiliano Ravalle was driven over for the second try of the match, which Bocchino converted. Briefly, Kushnarev reduced the widening gap with a well-aimed penalty, but five minutes later the Italians stole another Russian ball in their 22, with their flyer Michelle Sepe finishing off a sweeping move under the Russian posts and Bocchino converting.
With the heat taking its toll, the Russians seem to lose both the drive and the will to win. Two further tries by the blockbusting Italian number 8 Manoa Vosavai secured Italy the bonus point - with both tries converted by the active and increasingly influential Bocchino. It was tough on a Russian team that had competed so well in the opening half.
France A 20-16 Romania
France A fought off a brilliant second-half comeback by Romania to defeat the hosts 20-16 in the final match on day two of the IRB Nations Cup 2009.
It was a pulsating game of contrasting halves that kept the crowd on their feet up to the final whistle. Immediately after kick off, it looked for a while as if Romania could wrestle the control of the game from the French, but it was as short as it was deceptive. With their best moves turning to dust either through handling errors, or frustrating turnovers, the Romanians lost their poise and soon had to fight for their lives as the French turned the afterburners on, moving the ball at pace and with accuracy.
A textbook try scored by right wing Romain Martial, who chased through a delicate chip by his line partner Lionel Mazars, was shortly followed by a second signed off by loose-head prop Yannick Forrestier, who galloped through unchallenged. To add insult to injury, the Romanian lineout, in the past one of the most productive areas of their forward play, was dominated by the outstanding French open side Steve Malonga, whose mother is Romanian. It looked as if a rout was on the cards.
However, the Romanians, ably marshalled by their captain Marius Tincu, recovered their composure and some solid tackling in midfield as well as some intelligent long-range kicking from fly half Iulian Dumitras, the son of former Romanian captain Hary Dumitras, brought them back into the game. With the French leading comfortably 17-0, it was Dumitras' successful penalty from the halfway line that signalled the beginning of the Romanian fightback.
With their lineout ball constantly challenged by the French, it was the scrummage that provided the Romanians with a solid attacking platform. And this is what they did in the second half, when Petru Balan came on for Cezar Popescu and Alexandru Manta replaced Ovidiu Tonita at number 8.
The newly-found Romanian confidence and significantly improved discipline was expressed in a series of attacking mauls near the French line, which saw giant fly half Dumitras going over for a well-deserved try. With the Romanians pressing hard, a further penalty landed by Dumitras brought them within a point of what half an hour earlier looked an improbable win. However, a penalty at the other end of the field by French scrum half and captain Julien Audy secured France a deserved win, with Romania earning a valuable bonus point.
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