IRB Nations Cup
By Chris Thau, in Bucharest
Romania 10-31 Emerging Ireland
Though less dominant than in their previous two encounters against Russia and Uruguay, yet just as efficient, Emerging Ireland did what was required to subdue a strong and willing yet limited Romania to win the IRB Nations Cup in their first appearance at the tournament.
With the two teams level after some half an hour of play after a penalty by the Irish fly half Ian Keatley and a drop goal by his counterpart Florin Vlaicu, the Romanian defence cracked open with dynamic Irish captain Dominic Ryan barging over for the first try of the match.
A couple of minutes later Craig Gilroy capitalised on a series of defensive blunders by Romania to score his fourth tournament try for a half-time lead of 17-3.
That advantage was extended by a further seven points shortly after the restart when number 8 and the Player of the Tournament, Robin Copeland scored a try which Keatley converted.
The score sparked Romania into life and with the driving maul being used to good effect they battered the Irish defence for the best part of half an hour. Replacement scrum half Florin Surugiu went closest to scoring when he was held up over the line.
Eventually, with a minute to go, Welsh referee Ian Davies awarded Romania a penalty try, converted by Vlaicu, after the Irish illegally pulled down another well-executed maul metres from their own line.
Within seconds, a blistering Irish attack saw Andrew Conway crossing over on the left at the other end, only to be charged into touch by replacement Romanian winger Andrei Ilie, which prompted referee Davies to award a second penalty try, converted by the outstanding Keatley.
“It’s a bit surreal being named the Player of the Tournament, as there’s been a few guys who’ve played very well,” flanker Copeland commented after the match. “Both our wingers played very well, so I’m feeling pretty lucky. I think we really had to dig deep in all three games; it’s great that we won three out of three.”
Russia 6-13 Uruguay
The first match of the final day literally started with a bang, as the Uruguayan fly half Jeronimo Etcheverry half-tackled a Russian runner in mid-air and found himself yellow-carded by Italian referee Marius Mitrea, who knew then and there that he was going to have a boisterous affair on his hands.
The Russians, whose game gained a great deal of fluency with fly half Yury Kushnarev controlling the game with authority, sensed the unease of the opposition and launched a series of blistering attacks, brought to a halt by the gallant Uruguayan defence.
Although Kushnarev managed to land two penalties, and narrowly missed another one from halfway, Uruguayan tackling and Russia’s poor discipline thwarted their efforts in attack. They kept the pressure on the Uruguayans for most of the first half, but a variety of indiscretions in attack saw them turned back no less than five times, in the opposition 22.
Some 10 minutes into the second half the loss of two Russian props to injury denied Los Teros the edge they were building in the scrum, as referee Mitrea ordered uncontested scrums. But with their back row of Juan De Freitas, Diego Magno and outstanding number 8 Alejandro Nieto on the rampage, the Uruguayans managed to take control of broken field play and were rewarded with the only try of the match, scored by Franco Lamanna, while Russia were down to 14 men following the loss of flanker Pavel Butenko to the sin-bin.
Not to be denied the Russians, well-marshalled by Kushnarev, kept coming back at Uruguay with their two outstanding runners, Vasily Artemyev and Vladimir Ostrushko to the fore. However they were unable to find a breakthrough and Uruguay held on to win what could well be a dress rehearsal for the RWC 2015 Repechage Final later this year.
Uruguay captain Nicholas Klappenbach said: “This was a very difficult game, as we expected, against a team of a similar standard to ours. In the first half, we made too many errors and were unable to capitalise on some of the opportunities we had.
“In the second half, we implemented our game plan better and reduced the number of errors, which in the end was reflected on the score board.
“As far as the RWC 2015 is concerned, we have the game against Hong Kong first, which is our next priority.”
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