Rugby Union: Romania jolt for laid-back Ireland

Ireland 53 Romania 35
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The Independent Online
IRELAND LIMBERED up for their grudge rematch against the all-conquering Springboks next Saturday with an ominously loose and porous display against a spoiling yet inventive Romania.

Incredibly, a disjointed Irish side containing seven replacements seemed out on their feet by the time Romanian full-back Mihai Vioreanu had all the time in the world to dive on a deft grubber kick by inventive scrum- half Petre Mitu for his side's fifth try in injury time.

Another saw Pat Duignan's missed tackle on the stylish centre Romeo Gontineac culminate in a well-taken try by left-winger Gheorghe Solomie 80 metres up field. The other three were the direct product of schoolboy handling errors by a more expansively minded Irish side - Eric Elwood, Jonathan Bell and Kevin Maggs being the culprits.

This was all a fitting if damning indictment of a disappointing Irish midfield. Only when David Humphreys replaced Elwood was a little zest and assurance applied, the skilful Ulster outside-half delightfully sending Andy Ward and Bell over for tries.

A couple of hastily awarded penalty tries, courtesy of the New Zealand referee Peter Honiss, enabled Ireland to win by seven tries to five, although, having sauntered into a 19-3 lead, the home side had the crowd groaning anxiously as the gap was whittled down to 22-20 early in the second half. This despite the Irish pack winning twice as much set piece and loose possession. And also at a cost. Both Eric Miller (concussion) and Paul Wallace (sprained ankle) will be out for a couple of weeks.

Yet this rude awakening may be just what Ireland needed, as a surprisingly phlegmatic Irish coach, Warren Gatland, said afterwards. "It mightn't do us any harm. The players were very disappointed in the dressing- room and they're already concentrating on improving the defence for next week's game."

Ireland: Tries Bell 2, O'Shea, Scally, Ward. Penalty tries 2; Conversions Elwood 3, Humphreys 3; Penalties Elwood 2. Romania: Tries Vioreanu 2, Solomie, Fugigi, Brezoianu; Conversions Mitu 2. Penalties Mitu 2.

IRELAND: C O'Shea; J Bishop (both 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), A Ward (Ballynahinch), V Costello (St Mary's College). Replacements: K Wood (Harlequins) for Clarke, J Davidson (Castres) for Johns, D O'Cuinneagain (Sale) for Miller, K Maggs (Bath) for Duignan, all half time; J Fitzpatrick (Dungannon) for Wallace, 49; D Humphreys (Dungannon) for Elwood, 55; C McGuinness (St Mary's College) for Scally, 59.

ROMANIA: M Vioreanu (Timisoara Univ); R Fugigi (CSM Sibiu), G Brezoianu (Timisoara Univ), R Gontineac (Aurillac), G Solomie (Aurillac); R Vusec (Strasbourg), P Mitu (Steaua Bucharest); D Niculae (Aurillac), R Mavrodin (Steaua Bucharest), F Marioara (Dynamo Bucharest), M Dragomir (Steaua Bucharest), V Doja (Dynamo Bucharest), A Manta (Aurillac), A Girbu (Oyonnax), C Draguceanu (Steaua Bucharest, capt).

Replacements: E Septar (Farul Constanta) for Dragomir, 40; C Lupu (Dynamo Bucharest) for Solomie, 43; M Ciolacu (Farul Constanta) for Gontineac, 62; O Slusariuc (Dynamo Bucharest) for Girbu, 64; P Balan (Dynamo Bucharest) for Mavrodin, 77.

Referee: P Honiss (New Zealand).