Rugby Union: Elwood provides a winter warmer: Romania's limitations ruthlessly exploited by the accuracy of Ireland's nerveless young stand-off

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Ireland. . . . .25

Romania . . . . .3

ROMANIA proved far more accommodating guests to the Irish, who had picked up the tab for all their expenses rather than fly out to Bucharest, than the Canadians had been to Wales in midweek. They conceded a converted try and six penalty goals, while taking only a penalty from their hosts. So to the relief of Ireland the rites of autumn have been painlessly enacted on a misty, cheerless afternoon in Dublin, leaving them with no baggage of guilt to carry into the more serious campaigns of the winter.

In truth, the match proved very little except that Eric Elwood, who didn't miss a kick all afternoon, is back to last season's form, and that the Irish can look after themselves in a rudely physical encounter. But there is nothing new in that. With a greasy ball they still couldn't add to the list of really demolishing defeats which are Romania's regular fate nowadays.

Romania are no longer hard to beat, but are not the easiest side to do well against on a wet pitch. If they have few ideas on how to build up an attack, they are effective in massing to the point of danger and killing the game. They have physical strength if not finesse, and the Irish had urgent need of Elwood's kicking to underline the margin between their skills.

Last month in Brive Romania lost 51-0 to France, though curiously the nine changes they had since made for yesterday's match brought in no new caps. It was a recycling job. Ireland, on the other hand, fielded 12 of the men who beat the hapless England side 17-3 last season. Not that it added visibly to the composure of the Irish, who, so early in the season, were determinedly downbeat, pointing to their lack of preparation and excess of injuries.

These pre-emptive excuses proved unnecessary. As the clouds lowered, filling Lansdowne Road with drizzle, and the golf umbrellas mushroomed on the terraces, Elwood, looking as clean-cut and confident as he did last year, kicked Ireland into a

12-point lead by the end of the opening quarter with four penalties from four attempts. It was not the running of the bulls that a crowd of some 20,000 would have liked to watch, but it was as much as the conditions would allow, and surely put Ireland out of reach of any pressure that a tactically bereft Romanian side seemed likely to offer.

On the half-hour came a briskly taken try on the left wing from Simon Geoghegan, built up by Danaher and the fullback, O'Shea. Elwood managed to convert this even from the slippery touchline, and as the floodlights were turned on in mid-afternoon, the question was no longer whether but by how much.

Johns and Francis had the run of the line-outs, the scrum was solid but never so decisively in Ireland's favour, and Romania's main recourse under Irish dominance of the rucks was to go offside. When Elwood added two further penalties in the third quarter, bringing his total to a faultless six, the interest shifted to whether he would overtake Neil Jenkins' three-day old record of eight against Canada.

Romania got their first points on the board with a penalty from the stand-off, Rosu, and their most competent move of the match, contrived between scrum-half and back row which almost brought a try from Guranescu. The move ended in a knock-on, so that by the end neither side had proved anything valid about their likely futures.

IRELAND: C O'Shea (Lansdowne); R Wallace (Garryowen), V Cunningham (St Mary's College), P Danaher (Garryowen), S Geoghegan (London Irish); E Elwood (Lansdowne), M Bradley (Cork Constitution, capt); N Popplewell (Greystones), T Kingston (Dolphin), G Halpin (London Irish), P Johns (Dungannon), N Francis (Old Belvedere), M Galwey (Shannon), D McBride (Malone), B Robinson (Ballymena). Replacement: P McCarthy (Cork Constitution) for Popplewell, 76 min.

ROMANIA: V Brici; C Sasu (both Farul Constanta), G Solomie (University Eltim Timisoara), N Fulina (Farul Constanta); L Colceriu (Steaua Bucharest), S Rosu (Sibiu); D Neaga (Dinamo Bucharest), G Leonte (Vienne, Fr), C Gheorghe, G Vlad (both Grivita Bucharest), T Oroian (Steaua Bucharest), A Girbu (Farul Constanta), H Dumitras (Pau, Fr, capt), A Guranescu (Dinamo Bucharest), T Brinza (University Club). Replacement: Cojocariu (Bayonne, Fr) for Girbu, 43 min.

Referee: R Yeman (Wales).

Scores: Elwood (pen, 4 min, 3-0); Elwood (pen, 10 min, 6-0); Elwood (pen, 15 min, 9-0); Elwood (pen, 20 min, 12-0); Geoghegan/ Elwood (try/conv, 29 min, 19-0); Elwood (pen, 45 min, 22-0); Elwood (pen, 60 min,

25-0); Rosu (pen, 72 min, 25-3).