IRB Nations Cup
By Chris Thau, Bucharest
Emerging Ireland 66-0 Russia (match abandoned after 45 minutes - result stands)
Extreme weather played havoc with the opening match of the IRB Nations Cup between Emerging Ireland and Russia in Bucharest, on Friday afternoon. With Emerging Ireland leading 66-0, the match was abandoned five minutes into the second half.
Unlike last year when a similar thunderstorm delayed the match between Russia and Emerging Italy for some 20 minutes, this time the referee’s manager David McHugh and the Host Union tournament manager Lucian Lorin, in consultation with the two teams, decided to abort the match due to fears over player safety after a half-hour delay.
According to tournament regulations the result will stand and Emerging Ireland, who racked up 10 tries before the excellent Welsh referee Ian Davies called a halt to proceedings, will be awarded the five points.
Up until the abandonment, Emerging Ireland had handed out a painful lesson to Russia who were hoping to start the build-up for the final round of matches in the RWC 2015 Repechage in a positive fashion. Their kicking game was exposed and their defence was laid bare by quick Irish thinking and slick passing.
After a quarter of an hour the Irish had scored four textbook tries – the first three from Russian kicks turned into productive counterattack ball and one from a charged down kick near the Russian 10 metre line. Andrew Conway was the chief beneficiary, the winger helping himself to a first-half hat-trick.
The Russians quickly realised that a kick-chase game was not the appropriate tactic against the Irish and reverted to a more conventional style, by attacking with the ball in hand. This proved equally futile, as the iron-clad Irish defence brought their attempts to advance to a halt, either by very smart turnovers, which ended with the Irish flyers under the Russian posts, or by simply tackling the attackers to a standstill.
Robin Copeland, in his first game in Irish colours, was outstanding after his transfer to Munster from Cardiff Blues, matching the efforts of his back-row teammates, skipper Dominic Ryan and Tommy O’Donnell, and was fittingly rewarded with a try.
Romania 34-16 Uruguay
Florin Vlaicu kicked 19 points as Romania got their IRB Nations Cup title defence off to a winning start with a 34-16 victory over Uruguay.
Centre Vlaicu, who finished as the tournament’s top scorer in 2013, was again on top form with the boot, converting two of Romania’s three tries in addition to four penalties and a drop goal.
His only blemish in an otherwise perfect night of goal-kicking was a late missed conversion. If successful, Vlaicu would have overtaken Italy's Luciano Orquera as the tournament's all-time leading points scorer. Instead they are tied on 119 points - a record that will surely be broken when Vlaicu plays against Riussia next week.
Stadium groundsman Stelian Diac did a superb job in preparing a pristine surface after the earlier deluge that led to the abandonment of the first match.
The match itself, played in a sunny haze, perhaps failed to live to the standard of the pitch, but it provided the appreciative crowd with the kind of entertainment they were looking for after the disappointment of the previous match being called to a halt prematurely.
Los Teros, with preparations for the RWC 2015 qualifying play-offs in full swing, will take some solace from their gallant challenge against a side that has already booked their flights to London for next year’s tournament.
The try their wing Santiago Giberanu scored in the first half, after a delightful counterattack launched by full back Gaston Mieres, who danced his way through the feeble Romanian defence, will no doubt encourage coach Pablo Lemoine. With Joaquin Prada adding the conversion it also gave them a 13-6 lead after the sides had kicked two penalties apiece in the early throes of the contest.
What will be of concern though to the former Test prop is the way Uruguay’s famed scrummage was demolished by the enormous Romanian front five of Horatiu Pungea, Otar Turashvili and Constantin Pristaviata in the front row and second row duo, Mrius Sirbe and Valentin Poparlan.
The sides went into the break all-square when hooker Otar Turashvili crashed over after effective forward play, Vlaicu converting to level the scores at 13-13.
The Oaks went in front within five minutes of the re-start when flanker and captain Mihai Macovei scored a try. Predictably, Vlaicu added the extras to make it 20-13.
Following a raft of substitutions and a yellow card to Los Teros lock Franco Lamanna, Vlaicu maintained his 100 per cent kicking record with two more penalties to extend Romania’s lead to 13 points.
Prada pulled three points back with his third penalty of the match, but a drop goal from Vlaicu and Florin Ionita's try, which came off the back of a 20-metre driving maul, secured the points for the host nation.
"Games against Uruguay are always difficult, and this was no exception," said Romania head coach Lynn Howells. "This Romanian side was a fairly new one compared to the one we fielded in the European Nations Cup matches. In fact we had only two players from the side that played for us to qualify for the World Cup.
"It was a difficult game, but what I was pleased was that we carried on playing for the whole 80 minutes. In the first half we attempted to play rugby that suited them not us, and I think in the second half we started to play the way that we wanted to play and it made a big difference."
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