Chris Thau, Marius Matache and Mihai Irimia report from Bucharest
Romania will play Emerging Italy on Sunday in the deciding match of the IRB Nations Cup 2012.
Romania edged out Argentina Jaguars 23-21 in the second match on day two in Bucharest, Romania. Earlier, Emerging Italy had defeated Portugal 28-21 in the opening match.
In the final match, Russia defeated Uruguay 19-13.
Match 1: Portugal 21-28 Emerging Italy
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Chris Spachuk - POR
By scoring three tries against a resourceful, at times admirable Portugal, the young Italian hopefuls consolidated their position at the top of the IRB Nations Cup table with nine points, and will take on the Romanian Oaks in the tournament final on Sunday. Equally rewarding, the Portuguese, who looked as if they could upset the well-oiled Italian attack, also acquired a defensive bonus point for losing by seven points, their first points in the tournament.
In the first half, aggressive Portuguese defence all over the field forced the Italians into making errors, promptly turned into attacking opportunities by the streetwise Lobos. A marvellous individual try scored by their powerful full back Antonio Aguilar gave Portugal the lead, but a defensive error towards the end of the first half enabled the Italians to level the score (11-11), with speedy Andrea Bachetti at the scoring end.
After the break giant Portuguese lock forward Goncalo Uva, the younger brother of captain Vasco, intercepted a ball and galloped all the way for the second Portuguese try and a temporary four-point lead. The Portuguese challenge in the loose gathered momentum, with their scrum half Pedro Leal directing the operations behind the assertive pack.
However, the Italians did not lose their composure, in fact the try just helped them to concentrate better and soon they were back in attack, with their scrum half Alberto Chillon going over for the second Italian try. Throughout a match played at bewildering pace and intensity in the searing afternoon heat, the Italians remained calm and composed and counter-attacked smartly despite Portugal’s gallant challenge. This young Italian side does not seem to panic having developed the gift to mastermind pressure by turning defensive incidents into attacking opportunities.
Italy coach Gianluca Guidi:
“I am delighted not necessarily because of the win, but because this is a win of a young team and I am delighted to see young men playing and expressing themselves. This is the face of Italian rugby and I am happy to show how many talented players we have in the country, ready to make the step to a higher level, to help the work of Jacques Brunel. Even more significant is the fact that 14 of the fifteen players who started the match were born in Italy.”
Portugal Coach Errol Brain:
“I am disappointed. We played much better than in the first match and we could have won. But we have so many young players, and young players make mistakes. We gave away a soft try in the first half, and allowed them to score from silly errors. Then we tired and they managed to capitalise on our errors. We will do better in the third match, which is also very important as it is a ranking game against Uruguay, who beat us last time around.”
Match 2: Romania 23-21 Jaguars
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Dorin Manole - ROM
Romania playmaker and fly half Dorin Manole, testing the Jaguars defence, during the IRB Nations Cup match on 12 June 2012, in Bucharest, Romania
Romania withstood a late Argentine rally to win this tense match by 23-21, which keeps them in contention for the coveted IRB Nations Cup trophy. The winner of the 7th IRB Nations Cup will be decided in the final round when the Oaks take on tournament leaders Emerging Italy in a winner takes all encounter.
For a while it looked as if a combination of unforced errors, bad luck and naivety would prevent the Romanians from ever scoring a try. They managed to cross the Jaguars line at least twice, but some almost comic errors doomed their efforts. The first was after a break by their centre Csaba Gal, who played one of his better games in a Romanian jersey, when the two supporting players managed, between them, to knock the ball forward as they were diving over on the right of the in-goal area.
An almost similar incident took place on the left hand side, when a break this time by the burly Romanian tight-head Mihai Adascalitei, ended with the supporting players losing the ball as they went over to score. However, the Romanians, ably orchestrated by new fly half Dorn Manole, kept pounding the Jaguars line, with Adascalitei crashing through the Jaguar defensive line for the first try of the match. Manole converted for a half-time lead of four points (13-9).
After the break the Romanians increased the tempo and, following a similar break by Manole, full back Catalin Fercu, making his record 16th appearance in the IRB Nations Cup, the first at full back, gathered the pass and sliced his way through the disintegrating Argentine defence to score between posts.
The conversion, which proved crucial in the end as it made the difference between winning and losing the match was neatly slotted through by Manole. That was the last Romanian score, as the Jaguars took over, buoyed by a number of changes in the Romanian line-up, as well as by the entry of some of their more experienced players, who started the match on the bench. First it was left wing Matias Masera who scored at the end of a slick, blistering move, followed by captain Benjamin Madero who produced a piece of magic to wave his way through for a second try.
Romania coach Hary Dumitras:
We wanted to win this match badly and this was reflected in the way we played. I have to give the team credit for the performance, every single one of the 20 odd players who played today. They showed we can play a quality game against a strong opponent and I am really proud of them. They approached the game in the right frame of mind; they showed their opponents a great deal of respect, but believed that by playing the type of game we applied, we could win.”
Romania fly half Dorin Manole:
I always thought that Italy should be regarded as a favourite based on the kind of game they practice, and I look forward to the match against them on Sunday. Today’s match gives us the confidence that we needed for the big game. Today was not the day of individual effort, it was the day for the team as a whole and this is why I am happy. We planned to surprise them playing an attacking game, and it worked out.
Inca de la inceput Italia era pentru mine una din favorite. Dar meciul de astazi, victoria obtinuta, ne da o mare incredere si speram sa iasa totul bine duminica. Grupul a fost cel mai important jucator azi, ne-am pregatit foarte bine pentru meciul de azi.
Inca de la inceput, planul noastru a fost sa jucam ofensiv, sa nu lasam nimic, apararea foarte buna si s-a vazut ca a dat rezultate.
Jaguars coach Daniel Hourcade:
In the first half Romania played very well. They attacked with the ball in hand all the time and went on doing the same for about 10 minutes in the second half. After that, Argentina rallied and controlled the ball more, moving it quickly and scoring a couple of times. We made 11 changes for today’s match, in order to use all the players, many of them are young, it is good for them to play at this level in order to develop.
Match 3: Russia 19-13 Uruguay
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Uruguay v Russia
It was exactly the kind of match the two head coaches expected in their pre-match preview: hard and uncompromising, fought to the bitter end by the two sides in search of the elusive first win in the tournament.
The fact that Russia won this rather dramatic and intense clash had more to do with their collective will to win than any difference in personnel, talent or endeavour. Uruguay surged to a 10-point lead after about a quarter of an hour of play, with their right wing Santiago Arocena driven over by the pack on the other side of the field. Flay half Alejo Duran slotted through the conversion and soon afterwards added a penalty – though it is perhaps worth mentioning that he had missed two eminently kickable penalties before and after the Uruguayan try.
The Russians appeared rattled early on, but after about half an hour of play scored their first points – a try by their tight-head prop Innokentiy Zykov, celebrating his international debut. Another try by right wing Ivan Kotov enabled Russia to take the lead at half time, an advantage they did not relinquish until the end of the game.
The final score of 19-13 was settled after about 50 minutes of play, with Russia adding another converted try to their first half tally of 12 points and Uruguay’s Felipe Berchesi increasing his side’s total to 13. There was no further score until the end of the match, but not because of lack of trying, with the Uruguayans besieging the Russians lines with a vengeance.
Haste, emotion and dubious options prevented them from converting pressure into points, though one has to give the heroic Russian defence credit for keeping the scoreboard unchanged.
Fernando Paullier, Uruguay assistant coach:
A very close match, we have missed a couple of chances to score a try. Our defence was good but we missed a tackle and Russia scored a try. This was a physical match, our scrum was very good, which we dominated. We competed well at the tackle, great improvement in the scrum, we have lost some lineouts, but in general, it was a good match for us. For the match with Portugal, we’ll play our best team and we hope to win.
Kingsley Jones, Russia head coach Russia
This was an important match for us as it counts towards ranking points and I am please we won it. We let ourselves down a bit at the beginning, but I knew that the boys had the resources and the attitude to fight back from that 10 point lead. I cannot question the spirit of the team in a tough, physical game, in which the Uruguayans dominated the scrum, though we did well in the lineout. We have got to build confidence in the team by winning tough matches and this was one of those.