Romania twice came from behind to subdue Portugal's part-timers 14-10 and save face for their first win at the Rugby World Cup yesterday.
The Portugese threatened to end a first visit to the World Cup with a stunning victory when they led 10-7.
But in passing showers, the powerful Romanian pack muscled in two converted tries from lineout mauls for replacement hooker Marius Tincu in the 68th minute and flanker Florin Corodeanu in the 80th.
Romania thus made sure it will complete five World Cup appearances out of six with a victory, with a last match to go this Saturday against New Zealand on the same Stade Toulouse turf.
While Portugal bowed out of the tournament, its passionate effort served only to deepen admiration for the amateurs who were the last and lowest-ranked to qualify for the cup. Their heartfelt performances were returned after the match when the girlfriend of winger Antonio Aguilar proposed to him, complete with T-shirts asking the question for all his teammates, and he accepted.
Portugal's relentless effort, dedicated to captain Vasco Uva who had to miss the match with a broken hand, kept this match between the group also-rans riveting to the end.
Fittingly, it was caretaker captain Joaquim Ferreira who scored Portugal's only try in his farewell international with a touch of irony in the 20th minute.
Romania had won the first seven lineouts — two off Portugal's throw-in — when the Oaks called for a short lineout five meters from their line. They mistimed the jump, however, and dynamo Portugal flanker Joao Uva picked it up off the back and was stopped at the tryline. Ferreira, Portugal's most capped player, went over off the ruck for only his third try in 84 tests, and the first player to hug him was prop Rui Cordeiro, the tryscorer against New Zealand who was also playing his last game for his country.
Duarte Cardoso Pinto nailed the conversion and Portugal's 7-0 lead stood to halftime thanks to a relentless defense and Romanian fumbles.
Romania won 16 of 20 lineouts in the first half, five against the throw, and even turned over one of Portugal's scrums but its handling was atrocious. The Oaks seemed to turn over every possession.
Their best try chance was nine minutes into the game when winger Catalin Fercu broke from a ruck and sped down the right touch. He had only one man to beat but tripped up over his own feet.
Out of desperation, and soon after Portugal's try, Romania fullback Iulian Dumitras attempted a 45 metre drop goal which sailed right and was roundly booed.
On the other hand, when Portugal flyhalf Duarte Cardoso Pinto attempted a drop from 30 meters near the end of the half off rare lineout ball, his miss was applauded.
Whatever the Romanians were told at halftime was brief because they were waiting when Portugal returned to resume the match, and their determination was obvious. Lock Cristian Petre was too keen, however, and was lucky not to be sent off when he kicked out at prone prop Ruben Spachuk and missed.
Given a penalty 10 meters from the try line, Romania opted for a lineout in the same corner they conceded the try to Portugal. But replacement lock Sorin Socol lost the ball in his dive, which was confirmed by video replay.
Ten minutes later, Romania turned another penalty into a lineout and the mauling was good enough that Tincu popped out the side and scored without being touched. Valentin Calafeteanu's conversion tied the score at seven.
But the lead was brief, as Goncalo Malheiro, who replaced flyhalf Cardoso Pinto, landed a 40-meter penalty to regain the lead.
Portugal never could stop that Romanian lineout, however, and the Oaks ground out the yards to send over Corodeanu for a try which flyhalf Dan Dumbrava converted.Reuse content