IRB Nations Cup
Argentina A, Georgia and the Emerging Springboks win in Nations Cup
The IRB Nations Cup 2007 got under way in Bucharest on Tuesday afternoon with Argentina A, Georgia and the Emerging Springboks all recording victories.
Argentina A withstood a second half comeback to open their defence of the title with an entertaining 27-20 victory over Italy A in the opening match of the tournament.
However, it is the Emerging Springboks who top the round one standings after a resounding 61-7 win over an out of sorts Romania team. In the other match of the day Georgia claimed a psychological blow ahead of their Rugby World Cup Pool D clash with a hard fought 26-18 victory.
Argentina A 27 - 20 Italy A
It was the outstanding skill and ingenuity of the opposing fly-halves Santiago Fernandez and Luciano Orquera, which combined to lift the opening match of the nine-match tournament from the predictability of the attrition exchanges up front to the occasional moments of superlative artistry.
Twenty-five year old Orquera, who practises his trade with Brive in France, has already played for the first Italian team and, if he can add consistency to his creativity, he is likely to increase his current tally of 10 international caps. Orquera's brisk footwork initiated the break at centre which led to Italy's only try in addition to the 15 points - four penalties and a drop goal - he kicked during the match.
Unlike his opposite number, Fernandez, a product of the talent nursery of the Hindu club in Buenos Aires, has yet to break into the ranks of the senior Pumas - which on the account of his polished performance that graced the turf of Romania's new National Rugby Stadium, "Arcul de Triumf" may not be too far off.
Team Manager and Hindu Club coach Patricio Noriega, who was surprised and delighted to hear that his player has turned down several offers from professional clubs from Europe, believes that his 20-year old protégée is ready to take the plunge.
Noriega, in the past one of the hard men of Pumas and Australian scrummaging, went as far as saying that the classy display of Fernandez was more than an adequate compensation for the shortcomings of his pack, who, surprisingly, lost three balls on their own put in.
The first try for Argentina A resulted from a lineout in the Italian half and bore the hallmark of Pumas craftsmanship. It started with Fernandez's long pass to centre Federico Amelong, who swiftly combined with his speedster Pablo Gomez Cora on the left.
When tackled the rampaging Cora found linkman Fernandez galloping at his shoulder, and somehow the ball found its way back from the hands of the fly-half into those of Amelong who went over.
To make up for their modest returns of the scrum, the Argentine pack went into a higher gear with lock Jaime Arocena and replacement loosehead prop Edurado Rodriguez Planez at the scoring end of two well executed driving mauls, which the Italians failed to contain.
Yellow Card: Matias Cortese (replaced by Felipe Aranguren). S.Sanz went out.
Argentina A: pens S.Fernandez 3, drop goal S.Fernandez, tries: F.Amelong, J.Arocena, E.P.Rodriguez
Italy A : pens L.Orquera 4, drop goal L.Orquera, try M. Sepe
Argentina : E.P Rodriguez for F. Lecot ; J.Caratti for S.Sanz
Italy : J. Erasmus for F.Parisse, L. Ferraro for L.Ghiraldini; A.Persico for E.Pavanello; A. Marcato for M.Barbini; L.Milani for M.Rizzo
Georgia 26 - 18 Namibia
In the second match of the tournament the two RWC 2007 qualifiers produced an entertaining game, in which endeavour and enthusiasm made up for the missing skill and flair. It was Georgia, the more physical of the two teams who won in the end, thanks to their superior match fitness and, of course, speed wide out.
The Georgians scored two tries early on through their lock forward Victor Didebulidze - also yellow carded by referee Carlo Damasco of Italy - and prop Mamuka Magrakvelidze. However Namibia fought their way back to reduce the deficit to four points before the break with an opportunist try prop Marius Visser.
After the break, Namibian fly half Justinus van der Westhuizen scored a beautifully-crafted individual try for a brief lead, but the entrance of speed merchant Malkhaz Urjukashvili added the missing bite to the Georgian effort as he went over in the right corner to reclaim the lead. A penalty and a drop goal by Georgia's new outside half prodigy Merab Kvirikashvili sealed a deserved Lelo's win.
"We were a bit rusty and short of match fitness and it showed, but we have had no major injury worry and this was only the first match. Of course, I would have liked to win, but the boys played very well and this gives us a pretty reasonable base to build on," said Namibia Team Manager Sarel Losper.
Emerging Springboks 61 - 7 Romania
Romania's IRB Nations Cup campaign got off to the worst possible start on Tuesday as the host nation went down 61-7 to a powerful Emerging Springboks side.
The home fans at the new "Arcul de Triumf" stadium in Bucharest had to wait for over 70 minutes to be able to see a Romanian score.
This was Cristian Petre's try, which rewarded some hard work of the Romanian pack in the closing stages of a game thoroughly dominated by the turbocharged South Africans.
The Emerging Springboks scored eight tries and proved to be an opponent too difficult for the Romanian team, who are coached by Daniel Santamans. They were very strong in defence and unstoppable in attack, varying the game between the forwards and backs.
Indeed, while South Africa reported no injuries, of the four Romanian players who needed medical attention, two - centre Robert Dascalu and flanker Cosmin Ratiu - are out of the tournament and will be replaced. The other two, fullback Iulian Dumitras and prop Cezar Popescu have been retained and will undergo further fitness tests tomorrow ahead of this weekend's round of matches.
"We have been cut down to size, and we must take stock and do something about it" said an obviously frustrated Manager Robert Antonin, who pointed out that he was struggling to find two quality replacements for the injured players.
Antonin, one of the Game's most respected coaches, has been in Romania for three years as a manager of the National Rugby Academy. He has enlisted the help of a leading French coach Olivier Saisset, the coach of Beziers, for the tournament, but as he pointed out this was only a temporary measure.
Saisset, a former international flank forward and member of the formidable Beziers pack of the 1970s, observed that the Romanian team was in need of some soul-searching. "There is a lot of work to be done to bring it up to speed" he said sombrely.
In the second round Romania face Italy A, who also lost their giant loosehead Mario Rizzo with a broken foot. The Italians will fly in a replacement shortly.
- Emerging Springboks 5 pts (1 bonus point)
- Argentina A 4 pts
- Georgia 4 pts
- Italy A 1 pts (1 bonus point)
- Namibia 0 pts
- Romania 0 pts
Squads for IRB Nations Cup match day one:
ARGENTINA A: 1. Francisco Lecot 2. Matias Cortese 3. Pablo Cardinali 4. Jaime Arocena 5. Diego Stuart 6. Santiago Sanz 7. Augusto Petrilli 8. Genaro Fessia 9. Alfredo Lalanne 10. Santiago Fernandez 11. Pablo Gomez Cora 12. Federico Amelong 13. Juan Gauthier 14. Francisco Merello 15. Bernardo Stortoni (Captain).
Replacements: 16. Daniel Rodriguez 17. Javier Caratti 18. Felipe Aranguren 19. Miguel Achaval 20. Lucio Lopez Fleming 21. Roman Miralles 22. Gabriel Ascarate 23. Francisco Gomez Kodela 24. Gonzalo Camacho 25. Juan Fernandez Miranda 26. Pablo Bouza.
ITALY A: 1. Michele Rizzo 2. Leonardo Ghiraldini 3. Lorenzo Cittadini 4. Fabrizio Parisse 5. Mario Vella 6. Enrico Pavanello 7. Aldo Birchall 8. David Dal Maso (Captain) 9. Nicola Leonardi 10. Luciano Orquera 11. Ludovico Nitoglia 12. Matteo Barbini 13. Walter Pozzebon 14. Michele Sepe 15. Alberto Sgarbi.
Replacements: 16. Luigi Ferraro 17. Luigi Milani 18. Jaco Erasmus 19. Aaron Perisco 20. Pino Patelli 21. Andrea Marcato 22. Marco Rosa 23. Paul Derbyshire 24. Michele Nitoglia 25. Giovanni Manotti 26. Alberto De Marchi.
GEORGIA: 1. Mamuka Magrakvelidze 2. David Dadunashvili 3. David Khinchagashvili 4. Levan Datunashvili 5. Viktor Didebulidze 6. Shalva Sutiashvili 7. Rati Urushadze 8. Giorgi Chkhaidze 9. Irakli Abuseridze (Captain) 10. Merab Kvirikashvili 11. Otar Eloshvili 12. David Kacharava 13. Revaz Gigauri 14. Girogi Shkinin 15. Otar Barkalaia.
Replacements: 16. Irakli Chkonia 17. Georgi Jgenti 18. Elizbar Kuparadze 19. Zurab Mchedlishvili 20. Zviad Maisuradze 21. Malkhaz Urjukashvili 22. Davit Gurgenidze 23. Bidzina Samkharadze 24. Ilia Maisuradze 25. Iuri Natriashvili 26. Besiki Khamashuridze.
NAMIBIA: 1. Jonny Redelinghuys 2. Hugo Horn 3. Marius Visser 4. Heino Senekal 5. Nico Esterhuizen 6. Jacques Nieuwenhuis 7. Tinus du Plessis 8. Jacques Burger (Captain) 9. Eugene Jantjies 10. Justinus van der Westhuizen 11. Melrick Africa 12. Corne Powell 13. Lu-wayne Botes 14. Ryan Witbooi 15. Tertius Losper.
Replacements: 16. Skipper Bardenhorst 17. Jane du Toit 18. Kees Lensing 19. Jurgen van Lill 20. Wacca Kazombiaze 21. Pieter Rossouw 22. Heini Bock 23. Stefan du Rand 24. Jan Duvenhage 25. Herman Lindvelt 26. Du Preez Grobler.
EMERGING SPRINGBOKS: 1. Heine van der Merwe 2. Schalk Brits (Captain) 3. Eddie Andrews 4. Wilhelm Steenkamp 5. Ross Skeate 6. Kabamba Floors 7. Solly Tyibilika 8. Jonathan Mokuena 9. Heini Adams 10. Peter Grant 11. Tonderai Chavhanga 12. Bradley Barritt 13. Jaco Pretorius 14. Odwa Ndungane 15. Bevin Fortuin.
Replacements: 16. Ashton Constant 17. Mxoli Songoni 18. Bandise Maku 19. Nikolai Blignaut 20. Ernst Joubert 21. Jano Vermaak 22. Howard Noble 23. Marius Delport 24. Louis Ludik 25. Meyer Bosman 26. Hilton Lobberts.
ROMANIA: 1. Petrisor Toderasc 2. Marius Tincu (Captain) 3. Paulica Ion 4. Valentin Ursache 5. Cristian Petre 6. Alex Tudori 7. Cosmin Ratiu 8. Florin Corodeanu 9. Valentin Calafeteanu 10. Ionut Tofan 11. Ioan Teodorescu 12. Catalin Dascalu 13. Gabriel Brezoianu 14. Catalin Fercu 15. Iulian Dumitras.
Replacements: 16. Razvan Mavrodin 17. Cezar Popescu 18. Bogdan Balan 19. Augustin Petrichei 20. Stelian Burcea 21. Lucian Sirbu 22. Ionut Dimofte 23. Florin Vlaicu 24. Csaba Gal 25. Dan Vlad 26. Valentin Poparlan.
IRB Nations Cup Fixtures:
15:00 - Italy A vs Argentina A 20-27
17:00 - Georgia vs Namibia 26-18
19:00 - Emerging Springboks vs Romania 61-7
15:00 - Argentina A vs Namibia
17:00 - Georgia vs Emerging Springboks
19:00 - Romania vs Italy A
15:00 - Italy A vs Georgia
17:00 - Romania vs Namibia
19:00 - Argentina A vs Emerging Springboks