IRB Nations Cup
Chris Thau, Marius Matache and Mihai Irimia report from Bucharest
Romania edged out Emerging Italy17-13 in the deciding match of this year's IRB Nations Cup to claim the title.
Argentina Jaguars defeated Russia 33-9 in the opening match of the day. Uruguay then saw off Portugal 35-7.
More details below...
Match 1: Argentina Jaguars 33-9 Russia
The final round of the IRB Nations Cup kicked off with the match between the Argentine Jaguars still smarting from the unexpected defeat at the hands of Romania the previous round and the Russians buoyed by their midweek win over Uruguay. The Russians controlled the possession during the early exchanges, with both their line-out and scrummage dominant. They stole Argentine balls in the lineout, and mastered the famous Jaguars scrummage.
They battered the Argentine line for most of the first half, but seemed unable to convert pressure into points and their honest endeavours were rewarded with only three penalties duly converted by their outside half Sergey Sugrobov.
The Jaguars, who struggled during the first half an hour, making a lot of unforced errors, managed nevertheless to stay in the game with skipper Santiago Gonzales Iglesias landing three penalties for a half time 9-all tie.
After the break, as the Russians wilted in the hot Bucharest afternoon, the Jaguars increased the tempo. Three tries in the last 10 minutes rewarded their enterprise, one short of the bonus point that would have kept them in contention for the coveted trophy, had the last match ended in a draw.
All tries were scored by reserve players, which as coach Hourcade observed, showed the quality of the Argentine bench. The first to score, was reserve prop Nicholas Basile followed by Marcos Bolini and Lucas Ponce, with Benjamin Madero converting all three of them.
Kingsley Jones, Russia head coach
"At the beginning we played some good rugby, we should have got a try, really, but we chose to take the penalty. We had a lot of pressure in the first 30 minutes on the Argentine line. Again, it looked, as it did in the match with Italy and in the Uruguayan game, that we would run away with it.
"Then we started making mistakes, we gave away a few penalties that eroded our lead in the first half. And these small things, affected us mentaly, psychologically, because we have allowed them back into the game, and they took their chances.
"During the last 20 minutes, both teams were going through the motions a bit for a while. With 10 minutes to go the score was 12-9, then we certainly lost our way. People in Russia will look at the score, the supporters will think that we’ve been under the cosh I guess. As we all know, for 65-70 minutes the match was 'who’s going to win this match?'. Nobody in the stadium knew at 12-9.”
Daniel Hourcade, Argentina Jaguars coach:
"In the first half, Russia played very well, they had a lot of fluency in the scrum and in the lineout. Our defence was good, but they put pressure on us all the time.
"In the second half, I told my players that we needed to circulate the ball. We started to win in the scrum, in the lineout, we started to vary a bit the lineout as they won some in the first half, then we started to play.
"During half time, I told them that it is not a problem for us to lose, but it is important to start to play. In the last 10 minutes of the second half, Russia had used up all their physical resources, we were more fresh than they were. It’s also very important that the substitutes we made were very good, as three of the players coming from the bench scored."
Match 2: Portugal 7-35 Uruguay
Nothing that went on during the first 15 minutes of the match between Uruguayan Teros and Portuguese Lobos would have prepared the crowd for the deluge that followed. Uruguay moved into a comfortable 6-0 lead, though they had missed an early penalty while a drop goal went wide.
Then, following a lineout near the Portugal line, a triumphant Uruguayan pack drove tight-head Mario Sagario over for the first try, converted by scrum half Agustin Ormaechea. Five minutes later the blockbusting Uruguayan scrum half went over for the second try, following closely an attack of his back row on the short side.
During this period the Portuguese were literally blown apart by the ferocity of the Uruguayan attacks, orchestrated by the outstanding outside half Felipe Berchesi. Bullied in set pieces and harassed in the lose the Lobos conceded a third try, signed off by Teros lock forward Christopher Suarez, who touched down between the posts. It was the 40th minute and the scoreline read Portugal 0 Uruguay 28.
Led by their admirable open side flanker and captain Vasco Uva, Portugal bounced back into the game with a pushover try, but it was too little, and as it proved, too late. Their subsequent attacks seemed to lack focus, faltering in the proximity of the Uruguay line. Playing catch-up rugby did not suit their structured style and in the closing minutes veteran centre Gaston Mieres intercepted and sprinted through for a 70-metre try, the final score of a strange match.
Errol Brain – Portugal coach
"I really don’t know what happened. To say that I am disappointed would be an understatement. We started badly and it got worse. It was a terrible performance. We gave away nine penalties and conceded seven turnovers. This is without doubt our worst performance since I took over."
Pablo Lemoine – Uruguay coach
"I am delighted with the win. We approached the game differently. We relaxed more in the build-up of the game. We socialised a bit more, had a few dinners out, one of which was with our ambassador in Romania and generally tried to take the pressure off the players. In training we worked on small details which helped the players to focus better. They reacted well and performed accordingly. Very good win!"
Match 3: Romania 17-13 Emerging Italy
Before the match, the FRR Director of Rugby, former Pontypridd, Edinburgh and Wales coach Lyn Howell was heard muttering in Romanian, words to the effect that having achieved its objective of winning two of three matches, the Romanian players should start the match in a relaxed frame of mind, tring to enjoy themselves, rather than try to win the match.
And for a painbfully long time it looked as if the Romanians were giving enjoyment a bit of a priority over hard-nosed pragmatism, missing scoring chance after chance.
As one pundit observed, it looked as the only obstacle in the way of a comprehensive Romanian win were the Romanians temselves. Having said that, one has to give credit to a superbly coached Emerging Italy, who never surrendered despite long periods of overwhelming Romanian superiority. The two Italian coaches Gianluca Guidi and Stefano Romagnoli must be proud of the way their team, the youngest in the torunament, came within one try of securing a major win.
The Romanians enjoyed a glut of possession, forcing Italy to defend desperately for long periods of time. After exchanging early penalties, the new Romanian fly half Dorin Manole finished off a blistering Romania attack with a try under the posts.
The next score in this extremely exciting match was an Italian penalty about half an hour later. The Romanians bouced back in attack and a penalty try rewarded their overwhelming dominance, with 10 minutes to go. Not to be denied, Italy forced their way back into attack with outside half Albero Chiesa at the scoring end of a sweeping back move.
Gianlucas Guidi - Emerging Italy coach
"I have to say that I am enormously proud of my team. We left Italy with 15 boys and we go back with 15 men. They proved that the furure of Italian rugby is secure and I will not be surprised if some of them will go all the way.
"It was a fantastic tournament that enabled these young men to grow and express themselves. It was fantastic to see them gaining in confidence, skill levels and in spirit as the tournament wore on."
Romania's Florin Surugiu - player of the tournament
"The secret of our win is that we were together in this and we had confidence in ourselves. We felt from the outset that we can do it and we worked very hard on it.
"We changed our strategies from match to match and our varied approach has paid off. I recall being selected for the first time by our former coach Ellis Meachen and I am delighted to be part of such a team effort. It is a team effort in every respect, with a lot of people making significant contributions to it, from our players to the technical staff."
Haralambie Dumitras - head coach Romania
"This was a dream that became reality today. It is the first trophy Romanian rugby wins since the European Nations Cup of 2006.
"This was achieved by a group of determined players, who strongly believed in this dream. We have almost forgotten what is like to lift a trophy and tonight we are about to learn it again. Our forwards played remarkably well, but I must give credit our backs, who contributed to this success.
"One of the great pleasures was the outstanding display of Dorin Manole and I am delighted Florin Surugiu was voted the player of the tournament. We are going to celebrate this, but this is not going to last long. As they say, you are as good as your last match and we must prepare for the next round of international matches."
Mark Egan - IRB Head of Development and Performance:
"This was a fitting end to a magnificent tournament and a just reward for Romanian rugby, for all the investment made in partnership with the IRB to make this tournament the event it is now.
"Congratulations to Romania for a great win, but also to their opponents Emerging Italy, the young Italian team who will take away many valuable lessons. Also, I would like to mention the contribution of a talent-loaded Argentine Jaguars, and also the great potential displayed by Russia, Uruguay and of course Portugal. A remarkable tournament indeed."
- 08 March - Sandrine Agricole on France women's Six Nations campaign
- 7 March - England v Wales: Rugby World Cup memories and dreams
- 07 March - Andy Robinson looks ahead to the penultimate round of the Six Nations
- Listen to this week's Total Rugby show
- 03 March - Alain Rolland looks back over his distinguished refereeing career