Favourites all fall at IRB Nations Cup
By Chris Thau & Mihai Pintilie
Day one at the IRB Nations Cup produced three shock results as Georgia upset defending champions Scotland A, Namibia beat hosts Romania and Italy A overcame Argentina's second string, the Jaguars.
Only seven points separated the winning and losing teams across
all three matches and the results ensured that the six-team
tournament enjoyed a thrilling opening day at the Arcul de Triumf
National Stadium in the Romanian capital of Bucharest.
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Namibia 21-17 Romania
Namibia wrote a piece of history on the turf of the "Arcul de Triumf" Stadium in Bucharest by defeating the hosts Romania for the first time as well as winning their first ever IRB Nations Cup tie after a nail-biting encounter.
The hosts looked dominant during the early exchanges with an early try by left wing Catalin Fercu but then flattered to deceive. Their inability to score when dominant in the first half cost them dearly after the break as the heat took its toll. After half time the heavier Romanian pack wilted in the blazing sun and the Namibians bounced back into the game with a well taken try by their lively centre Darryl de la Harpe.
For a short while the Romanians stole the lead with a try scored by their pack after a driving maul and converted brilliantly by Dan Dumbrava, but Romanian celebrations we cut short by an extraordinary try by the Namibian right wing Llewellyn Winkler, who sidestepped and dummied his way through a bewildered Romanian defence for the killer blow in injury time.
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Jacques Burger, Namibia captain
"I am delighted with this win, our first against Romania. I played against them once and lost and this is really very pleasing for me and the guys, some of whom played them twice and lost twice. This is the result of a lot of hard work by the boys and I am really proud of them. The heat played a part in this match, but it was the same for both teams. "
John Diergaardt, Namibia coach
"This is our first win in this tournament, in fact the first ever win in any senior IRB tournament, and naturally we are delighted. We were hungry, perhaps hungrier than they were, but basically we decided to keep the ball in hand and run it at every opportunity. The local-based players have been working very hard for this and the professionals who play abroad slotted in nicely so we came here really in the right frame of mind as well as very fit.
Romeo Gontineac, Romania coach
"There is no doubt that the better team won but this is because we failed to score when dominant and made some naive errors in defence when we had the lead. Our lapse of concentration at the end cost us dearly, but we shall regroup and work harder for the next round."
Sorin Socol, Romania captain
"Maybe we underestimated them and this cost us dearly. It is not nice to lose but it is not the end of the world. Namibia played better and won. We will improve against Italy and Argentina I hope and maybe even win."
Argentina Jaguars 20-22 Italy A
A try from blindside flanker Robert Barbieri and 17 points from
the boot of outside half Luciano Orquera helped Italy A produce the
second upset of the day, sensationally defeating the Argentine
Jaguars 22-20 in injury time.
This was the third encounter between the two sides but the first to be won by the Italians, who celebrated wildly at the end of the match.
A young and ambitious Italian pack ably led by international lock forward Antonio Pavanello set the groundwork for the Italian win, challenging the Jaguars in the set piece and depriving them of the dominant platform they would normally enjoy. While the scrum was even, the lineout was copiously dominated by the Italians, who also did well at the maul as the match played at a devilish pace with Argentine-born Orquera setting the pace in the loose.
With 17 points added to his previous tally of 64, Orquera has consolidated his position as the leading point scorer in the IRB Nations Cup with 81.
Antonio Pavanello, Italy A captain
"There are no words to describe how great this win is for us, how wonderful it is to win this kind of match. Argentina were very good but we didn't lose the concentration. We won the battle in the scrum and in the line outs and with the driving mauls. I enjoy playing here because here you can play real rugby, the rugby that you can taste, the real emotion to sweat the jersey of Italy."
Gianluca Guidi, Italy A coach
"This was a very tough game. Argentine players are very skilled and talented, truly amazing players. I'm very happy because this team is a developing team, a lot of young, talented players for whom this is a real experience."
"We studied the Argentines a lot and developed a strategy but it is the players who are at the centre of the strategy because they take the decisions on the pitch. We looked at Argentina and knew that every time they go into a line out they make an error. We studied that and worked in that direction."
Agustin Guzman, Argentina captain
"It was very difficult to play in this weather, which affected the intensity of our game and I'm upset because we lost a game we could have won easily. We made a lot of mistakes in the line out, we lost concentration and Italy took advantage and put pressure on us. The next game will be tough, too. Romania is a tough side, a strong side, we have to play a quicker game, more dynamic and run the ball more often."
Franco Rossi, Arg Jaguars Manager
"This was a tough game and both sides could have won. We lost and I'm not saying that we lost because of the referee, but we must understand the way the ref is going to perform. It's tough to lose a game in the last second, I didn't care the time but I think it was over."
Scotland A 21-22 Georgia
The third and probably most significant upset of the opening day
of IRB Nations Cup was the narrow, one-point Georgia win over the
holders Scotland A.
Four minutes into the game Scottish left wing Mark Robertson went over for a textbook try converted by Greig Laidlaw but the early lead did not seem to do the young Scots any good as they lost some of their early composure and definitely much of their accuracy and purpose. They somehow failed to convert into points their first half superiority and paid dearly for it in the second, when a rejuvenated Georgia hit back with a vengeance.
The Georgians scored a try through their abrasive lock forward Shalva Sutiashvili and added a few more penalties through the boot of full back David Dadunashvili. In the end, with Scotland replacement Chris Fusaro scoring a try, it was David Blair's conversion that made the difference between success and failure. It went wide and Georgia celebrated their first ever win over a major union as Eric Clapton started his concert at the track and field venue across the way to add yet more surreality to the occasion.
Tim Lane, Georgia coach
"I think the first try was fairly soft as we made a simple mistake but then the boys showed tremendous courage, great heart and attitude. This is a young team without many of the top players who are still in France; it was an incredible effort as last winter we lost to Scotland A 69-3. Today defence obviously made the difference and in the next two games we can do more with the ball, but fundamentally we showed a lot of courage in defence, the scrum was good, the line out, so I'm pretty happy."
Tedo Zibzibadze, Georgia captain
"I have no words to express my delight. I am so happy. This is a great win for Georgia, for Georgian rugby and for our team who have been working very hard for all this. This is a very young side, with many players based in Georgia, and will help the development back there. There is no doubt that this team will get better and better as the tournament goes on."
Allister Hogg, Scotland captain
"I must give Georgia credit for a win well-earned. Personally, I am quite frustrated as it was us who lost it, but that's normal if you make so many errors. This is a very young side and we were playing some very good rugby for about 20 minutes and everything seemed all right, but then we lost our composure, we lost patience with the ball in hand and made too many hasty and ultimately costly decision as well as some unfortunate choices. It was very much a self-inflicted defeat but we will learn from this and get better."
Sean Lineen, Scotland A coach
"It's a very young side, inexperienced in key positions. We have a lot of youngsters there and we beat ourselves so to speak, that's tough to take; it's painful, right, but it is true and also proper because in the first half we could score three or four tries and we didn't. From the development point of view we have to regroup as a team; we started from a place we don't want to be but this is the level some of the players are at. This is more a Scotland development team than a Scotland A team, but the talent is here and we must work hard to develop it."