IRB Nations Cup
Superb Namibia win IRB Nations Cup
By Chris Thau & Mihai Pintilie
Namibia were the only side to maintain their proud 100% record at the IRB Nations Cup in Bucharest, grinding out an impressive 21-16 win against fellow Rugby World Cup qualifiers Georgia to clinch the title for the first time.
Even after the Namibians' opening win on the tournament's third match day, Italy A remained a win away from landing the title, but they lost out to hosts Romania 27-22 in dramatic fashion in the last match of the piece to hand the title to the proud Africans.
Last year's tournament champions Scotland A finished winless
after the Argentina Jaguars produced their best display to beat
NATIONS CUP MATCHES >>
NATIONS CUP STATISTICS >>
NATIONS CUP STANDINGS >>
RIGHTS-FREE PHOTOS >>
Georgia 16-21 Namibia - 15:00 (Bucharest)
Namibia maintained their 100% record at the IRB Nations Cup by
grinding out an impressive 21-16 win against fellow Rugby World Cup
qualifiers Georgia in the first of three matches on the final day.
In the first half of a match of tremendous physicality, Georgia reverted to the pragmatic simplicity and the sound, cast-iron defence that helped them do so well against Scotland A in the first round of the tournament and, largely as a result, they led 13-0 at the break and looked set to achieve a fine win.
The game seemed to swing, though, on the injuries of their captain Tedo Zibzibadze, who departed with a dislocated elbow, and centre Revaz Giauri, who played the rest of the match with a shoulder injury. As a result, the Georgians lost much of their attacking appetite and defensive solidity and after half time the Namibians, led by their iron-man Jacques Burger, sensed the discomfort of the Georgians and bounced back with a vengeance. They scored two tries, the first signed off by the indefatigable Burger and the second through their nimble and increasingly influential full back Chrysander Botha, the author of the rest of Namibia's points.
FULL MATCH DETAILS >>
Jacques Burger, Namibia captain
"I'm happy with the win though we would have wanted to play better and get the four tries, (which would have yielded a bonus point). Maybe a win is good enough and that's our first win against Georgia and now I hope Romania will beat Italy A in the last game.
"We tried to work hard as a team and the work ethic was better than theirs. We knew from the beginning it would be hard and physical and we decided to keep playing. In the last 40 minutes we started to close the gap and capitalise on their mistakes and that was the game."
Eugene Jantjies, Namibia scrum half
"At half time we were 13 points down and that was because we made so many unforced errors, lost the ball in tackles, were slow in rucks and mauls from being too nervous or tense. It was only at beginning of second half we really started playing, and won in the end. I am really very happy."
Johan Diertgaardt, Namibia coach
"At half time it was a matter of putting all the things together again and telling the boys that we can actually make it; they just had to stop making mistakes, silly mistakes, and start working harder. They did just that and that helped a lot. I do believe that they showed a lot of character after the break and I'm feeling great about this team.
"This is not the end, it's just the beginning as this team has a lot of potential to become a great team. We are thankful for what we have."
Tim Lane, Georgia coach
"Obviously we are very disappointed, we had the game well in hand in the first half, put them under a lot of pressure, defended well and did everything we had spoken about beforehand. Probably we didn't do enough to win the game; our discipline was not as good as it should have been and a couple of poor decisions here and there lost us the game. The injury of our captain affected us, he was doing well in defence also had a sense of the game, which was badly missed once he went off with a dislocated elbow. However the boys played with a lot of courage and commitment and that's all I can ask.
"Next is in November we play Canada and USA with our full squad which is great, we get all the boys together again so it's a mini-preparation for the World Cup. We get together two weeks in November then during the European Nations Cup next year and we start the World Cup campaign in June."
Argentina Jaguars 33-13 Scotland A - 17:00 (Bucharest)
Last year's tournament champions Scotland A finished winless after the Argentina Jaguars produced their best display to beat them 33-13.
Although the intensity of the clash between Scotland A and the Argentine Jaguars defied the lowly position of the two teams in the tournament table, the battle of attrition between two evenly matched sides was fought very much in the spirit of the recently concluded series between Scotland and the Pumas in Argentina.
The match served to remind everyone at the Arcul de Triumf stadium that the two teams were former Tournament champions here but, such was the quality of this year's line-up that the original favourites found themselves battling avoid the dreaded wooden spoon.
The Scots inspired by their senior side's Series win yesterday, desperately wanted to finish the tournament with a flourish but in the end it was the Jaguars who stole the show thanks to two well taken tries by full back Mauricio Guidone, one in each half, and equally significantly by the boot of both Santiago Gonzales Iglesias and Nicholas Snachez, who between them landed the remaining 25 points.
It was a well-deserved win that should enable coach Daniel Hourcade to smile again after the early tournament setbacks against Georgia and Romania. At the opposite end of the spectrum, all this means a return to the drawing board for Scotland and A coach Sean Lineen.
FULL MATCH DETAILS >>
Agustin Guzman, Arg Jaguars captain
"I don't know if we were close to our potential or not but we did everything in our power and put all the effort to progress our game, and this Nations Cup provided us with a great opportunity to advance our game, experience and playing careers. The most important thing for all of us here is that we came here as a group of players and we are leaving as a team. Of course, the ultimate aim of all of us here is to play for the Pumas and I hope that this will one day be true. It was an honor to lead my country here and I am so proud to be the captain of this team, who supported me all the time and also made me very happy because we grew up during the tournament getting better and better as the tournament wore on."
Daniel Hourcade, Arg Jaguars coach
"I am quite happy with the match because we had a first half when we played good rugby, especially in attack creating many opportunities, while in the second half we held off the attacks of Scotland playing a great defensive game. Also in the last 10 minute we took control of the match and won with a bit of style. I'm happy because we achieved the goals that are not always related to results. Regarding the tournament, I think it's a good tournament to make these players gain international experience and help them to improve and develop their careers. Some players in this team are going to play for the Pumas in the World Cup. I think we have very good players here, very young and talented and that's important for Argentine rugby."
Sean Lineen, Scotland A coach
"You can't criticise the effort of players. The way in which we've come together and trained has been very good. We scored the first try in every game but couldn't keep up the intensity. I know the players will agree that the area which let us down was individual skills. I'm always very positive and what I'll take back from this tournament is the performances shown by players like Fraser McKenzie, Steven Turnbull and Chris Fusaro. Bryan Rennie also put his hand up. I'm not sure we respected the tournament enough. This is a tournament where we have two teams in the World Cup. Everyone will learn from this."
Roddy Grant, Scotland A
"It's been a really tough couple of weeks. Three games not getting a win was very poor, disappointing, unacceptable - all of these words. Through the games we played well in certain bits and in certain aspects of the games there were a lot of mistakes and individual errors which let us down. That's basically what cost us the wins. Looking back, including the Sevens I've played up to about 35 games this season. It's been a lot of rugby and the body is definitely feeling it but I wouldn't have it any other way. I've loved every game. Playing for your country to finish off a season is always special. It's something I've enjoyed but somewhat disappointed with the results."
Italy A 22-27 Romania - 19:00 (Bucharest)
Italy failed at the last hurdle in their pursuit of a first ever
IRB Nations Cup trophy as a new-look Romania playing an expansive
style of rugby, not normally associated with its traditional
heavy-footed forwards game, beat them 27-22 in a match of
extraordinary intensity to bring the fifth edition of the IRB
Nations Cup to an exciting end. For the first time the Romanians
finish the tournament as the runners-up, on points difference,
having scored two more points than Italy, who finish third.
Romania, noisily supported by the crowd and the Namibian team, have been attempting to play a game in which the forwards revert to their role of ball suppliers and the backs are the customer, being given opportunity to run, rather than spend all day defending and kicking the ball. It is a high risk game for the masters of the driving maul and they still made a lot of unforced errors, one of which ended with an opportunist Italian try by the dynamic left wing Alberto Sgarbi. But at the same time they scored a couple of textbook tries, the first by loosehead prop Cezar Popescu and the second by left wing Catlin Fercu, which took the sting out of the Italian fight-back.
It is quite surprising how the Italians, who dominated the set piece with authority, managed to lose the plot but credit should be given to the Romanian pack, ably led by skipper Sorin Socol who was voted Player of the Tournament and Ovdiu Tonita, the formidable Perpignan back rower, who played their hearts out. In the end it was the remarkable accuracy of Romania's recognized kicker Dan Dumbrava which made the difference in a tensely fought finale.
FULL MATCH DETAILS >>
Sorin Socol, Romania captain (voted Player of the tournament)
"We started slower than the Italians, we expected them to be fresher at the beginning of the game. They dominated the early exchanges but we managed to get back into the game. It was all a question of mental preparation. Ultimately it was a question of desire. We really wanted this badly. To an extent it was similar to our comeback in European Nations Cup this spring, when we won all our matches. Although we won two important games, the loss against Namibia, a team we dominated, still hurts. In fact, we underestimated them and they punished us and we deserved it. Namibia made significant progress and we expect them to get some good results at the next World Cup, when we hope to play against them again. Coming back to the game, I want to mention the quality of our defence, especially following some mistakes of our forwards and I want to thank them for their spirit and dedication."
Romeo Gontineac, Romania coach
"I'm very pleased with the game of the team and of course I share their disappointment that we failed to defeat Namibia when we lost in the last 20 seconds of the game. I am satisfied by the performance and more significantly by the approach, which paid off. Today we tried to play the ball, to alternate the game between the backs and forwards, to play a more expansive game and I am delighted that it worked out."
Dan Dumbrava, Romania fly half
"I am pleased with the win and also pleased with my contribution. I work hard every day and my kicking has become more consistent and reliable. It's all about hard work and taking it seriously. I was always impressed by the great kickers in the game, I wanted to do it just as well as they do it. But all my contribution is based on the team work. It is the team who wins matches, not the kickers."
Antonio Pavanello, Italy A captain
"Our set piece was excellent. The lineouts did a good job both in attack and in defence and also the scrum was very good - we advanced with the ball and we put pressure on the Romanian scrum. The kicking was not as good as it should have been and that's where we made too many mistakes. I'm upset because on the one hand we made unforced errors, which are normal in a match of rugby, but it is not acceptable to give away silly penalties when we should know better. On the other hand we did not think properly, making mistake after mistake and allowing them to control the game whish we should have won."
Giampiero Di Carli, Italy A coach
"The forwards won a lot of ball and dominated their opposite numbers but we experienced serious difficulties with our kicking options. We defeated Georgia because we used perfect tactics but today we lost lucidity while the Romanians played very well and they deserved to win the game."