Aussies up the pace

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Australia 42 Romania 3

Tries: Foley 28, Roff 37, 61 Drop: Ivanciuc 13

Burke 66, Smith 71

Wilson 80

Con: Burke 28, 37

Eales 61, 66, 71, 80

AGAINST the backdrop of the craggy peaks of the Cape, Australia, the reigning world champions, gave themselves a mountain to climb with an awful first-half performance yesterday but in the end defeated the brave Romanians comfortably, if not convincingly, to claim their place in the quarter-finals.

It was the first Test ever played in Stellenbosch, the heartland of Springbok rugby, but it could hardly be considered a classic given that the Wallabies took so long to find their rhythm in a contest that should have been a cakewalk. In their defence, Australia's was a mix-and-match side, missing many of their established and experienced players. Michael Lynagh and David Campese both missed their first World Cup games after 14 consecutive appearances since its inception in 1987, thus conceding to the New Zealand captain, Sean Fitzpatrick, the record of 15 appearances in a row.

Romania gave them a true contest for the first hour, but then the Wallabies cut loose in the final quarter which gave the scoreline a distorted look, paying little regard to the great efforts of the highly motivated Romanians, playing their first international against the Wallabies.

After the game, Bob Dwyer, the Australian coach, said with a hint of a smile: "We are the first team to score six tries against Romania in the World Cup. We did not play very well, but we did give a reminder, late in the game, that we could play well."

A further boost for the Aussies came from the Romanian captain, Tiberiu Brinza, who said: "Although South Africa and Australia were playing weakened teams against us, I consider Australia are the better side."

The Romanians cannot be faulted for their efforts, given how short of money and resources they are. They are desperately in need of aid to develop the game at home, and it is nothing short of a scandal that they received no money from the 1991 World Cup.

For their part, Australia may at last have discovered a measure of confidence from their form in the final quarter. What will worry them is their abysmal performance in the opening 30 minutes.

Matthew Burke set the tone for Australia by missing two easy penalty kicks before his side came under threat from a sweeping Romanian attack and, after a series of line-outs and scrums on the Wallabies' line, were rewarded with a dropped goal by Ilie Ivanciuc.

Australia were consistently guilty of over-elaboration round the scrum and they were strangely clumsy both in the rucks and mauls and the line- outs and also lost six of their own throw-ins to the line-out in the first half.

Just as some Aussies might have been contemplating a flight home tomorrow night, they found some coherence when a combined attack by backs and forwards saw Michael Foley go over from a roving maul and the try was converted by Burke.

The Wallabies continued to be pressured but then Joe Roff, man of the match, scored a neat try after a cross-field run by the other wing Damian Smith. Burke converted, to make it 14-3 at half-time and you sensed that the Australians were ready to move up a gear.

However, the Romanian resistance remarkably continued and it was not until 23 minutes into the second half that the Australians began an avalanche of four tries by Roff, Burke, Smith and David Wilson, all of them majestically converted from the touchline by the lock forward John Eales.

Australia will now be girding their loins to play England, but that exciting prospect depends on the small matter of the English defeating Western Samoa today.

Australia: M Burke (New South Wales); D Smith (ACT), D Herbert (Queensland), T Horan (Queensland) J Roff (ACT); S Bowen (New South Wales), G Gregan (ACT); E McKenzie (New South Wales), M Foley (Queensland), T Daly (New South Wales), J Eales (Queensland), R McCall (Queensland, capt), T Gavin (New South Wales), D Wilson (Queensland), W Ofahengaue (New South Wales).

Romania: V Brici (Farui Constanta); L Colceriu (Steaua Bucharest), N Racean, R Gontineac (both Cluj Univ) A Lungu (Stinta Petrosani); I Ivanciuc (Stinta Petrosani), V Flutur (Cluj Univ); G Vlad (Auch), I Negreci (CFR Constanta), G Leonte (Vienne), C Cojocariu (Bayonne), S Ciorascu (Auch),T Brinza (Cluj Univ, capt), A Guranescu (Cluj Univ), A Gealapu (Steaua Bucharest).

Referee: N Saito (Japan)