Rugby Union: Lacklustre Ireland fail to impress

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Ireland 53 Romania 35

Tries: Bell 2, Penalty tries 2, Tries: Vioreanu 2, Salomie

O'Shea, Scally, Ward Brezoianu, Sugigi

Cons: Elwood 3, Cons: Mitu 2 Humphreys 3 Pen: Mitu 2

Pens: Elwood, Humphreys

Half-time: 19-13

IT was a damp grey day in Dublin. The floodlights were on from the start but they failed to illuminate Ireland.

The Irish public believed their team would produce the goods and break new records but they were disappointed. Before the finish they were even wondering whether Ireland were worthy victors.

For their coach Warren Gatland it was a chastening experience against a side he described as awful in midweek. After yesterday he will have to rethink and wonder whether it was Romania or, in fact, Ireland who were awful. On this display it was the latter.

Ireland scored seven tries and their pace and forward strengths always indicated a home victory. Romania could excuse themselves after a midweek tussle with Georgia but they kept going as Ireland allowed them to stay in the match.

In the end, the leaky Irish defence let Romania in for five tries and the only difference was that Ireland were awarded two penalty tries by the New Zealand referee Paul Honiss.

South Africa - whom Ireland meet at Lansdowne Road on Saturday - will not lose too much sleep if they view the video evidence of this game; they could actually spare themselves the trouble.

Gatland showed his displeasure with a poor first-half performance when he made four changes at the break. For a time it looked as if Ireland might run riot, but the same old type of mistakes crept into their game. Romania, however, lacked the little bit of polish behind the scrum needed to take advantage. It appears to be the same old story for Ireland - a very good pack and too little to accompany it.

After an early flourish by Ireland the scene was almost set for a sensational opening score by the visitors when winger Gheorghe Solomie was sent away only to be called back for a forward pass.

It took Ireland 16 minutes to open their account and it came via a try from full-back Conor O'Shay, which Eric Elwood converted. Then referee Honiss was unbelievably quick in awarding a 19th-minute penalty try, which Elwood also converted, but the home side never took advantage.

The Romanian scrum-half Petre Mitu narrowed the gap with a 23rd-minute penalty and though Kieran Scally made it 19-3 with a fine individual try Ireland's display continued to be a catalogue of errors. A mix-up between Elwood and Pat Duignan allowed the full-back Mihai Vioreanu in for a try and then Solomie got another just before the break, at which point it was 19-13 for Ireland.

While Elwood stretched that with an early penalty, Radu Fugigi intercepted near his own line and scored a try that Mitu converted.

At 22-20 Ireland looked in all sorts of bother but an Elwood penalty, and a brace of tries by Jonathan Bell, converted by Elwood and the substitute David Humphreys stretched the gap to 19 points.

But Ireland were still far from impressive. Mitu kicked a penalty and while Andy Ward scored a try which Humphreys converted, Romania never gave up. Another intercept try from Gabriel Brezoianu, converted by Mitu, cut the gap to 16 points.

Ireland were awarded another penalty try for deliberate off-side and Humphreys converted, but a typically gritty Romanian side had the last word in injury time Vioreanu went in unopposed in the corner after a chip by Mitu.

Ireland: C O'Shea (London Irish); J Bishop (London Irish), P Duignan (Galwegians), J Bell (Dungannon), D O'Mahony (Bedford); E Elwood (Galwegians), C Scally (UCD); P Clohessy (Young Munster), A Clarke (Dungannon), P Wallace (Saracens), P Johns (Saracens, capt), M O'Kelly (London Irish), E Miller (Terenure College), V Costello (St Mary's College), A Ward (Ballynahinch). Replacements: J Davidson (Castres) for Johns, h-t; K Wood (Harlequins) for Clarke, h-t; D O'Cuinneagain (Sale) for Miller, h-t; K Maggs (Bath) for Duignan, h-t; J Fitzpatrick (Dungannon) for Wallace, 49; D Humphreys (Dungannon) for Elwood, 55; C McGuinnes (St Marys) for Scally, 58.

Romania: M Vioreanu (Timisoara University); R Fugigi (CSM Sibiu), G Brezoianu (Timisoare University), R Gontineac (Aurillac), G Solomie (Aurillac); R Vusec (Strasbourg), P Mitu (Steau Bucharest); D Niculae (Aurillac), R Mavrodin (Steau Bucharest), F Mariora (Dinamo Bucharest), M Dragomir (Steau Bucharest), V Doja (Dinamo Bucharest), A Manta (Aurillac), C Draguceanu (Steau Bucharest, capt), A Girbu (Oyonnax). Replacements: E Septar (Farul Constanta) for Dragomir, 40; C Lupu (Dinamo Bucharest) for Solamie, 45; M Ciolacu (Farul Constanta) for Gontineac, 55; O Slusarivc (Dinamo Bucharest) for Girbu, 61; P Balan (Dinamo Bucharest) for Mavrodin, 75.

Referee: P Honiss (New Zealand).