Wallaby win fails to silence the doubters

Australia 90 Romania 8
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The Independent Online

The fastest try in World Cup history, their joint-biggest win in international rugby and a second-half waltz that resembled more of a sponsored try-fest than a Test match. And still the Australians did not convince that they are capable of retaining their crown.

Not to say that Romania weren't utterly convinced. After 18 seconds Elton Flatley ran into the record books that were left open for rewriting right up until the final minute, when George Smith notched up Australia's 13th try, equalling another Wallabies best.

But having said all that, there were moments in the first half when the Australian back-line looked worryingly susceptible under pressure, an obvious flaw that will have the analysts marking up the videotapes. Although often driven back by some impressive rolling mauls from the hosts, Romania were able to stay competitive as the Australian backs made six handling errors in the opening 40 minutes and turned the ball over four times. That is simply too many against a plucky but limited Romanian defence.

"It was a little disappointing, with a few dropped balls," admitted their outside-half, Stephen Larkham, who himself managed to hang on long enough to grab two tries. "Everyone expects you to win by a big score," their captain, George Gregan concurred. "But we had to work really hard." The minnows' reward for their labours came in the best manner imaginable for a side that had not looked like scoring in two previous Tests against Australia. Midway through the first half their No 8, George Chiriac, stole the ball from a line-out before sending over Petrisor Toderasc for a try that will give the prop immortality in parts of Eastern Europe.

This was to be no isolated moment as Romania brought the capacity Brisbane crowd to their feet with some rib-crunching tackling. Indeed, it was not until the second half, when the Wallabies substitutes arrived to kick open the floodgates, that Romania found their resistance futile. "We ran away with it in the second half, " Larkham said. "I think the reserves made a big impact."

The full-back Mat Rogers was chief among the gold-and-green prospectors, bagging three tries, while Flatley had one of those days that only Jonny Wilkinson dreams about, kicking 15 of his 17 shots at goal. Only Wendell Sailor failed among the backs to touch down, but even he was only denied by two ankle-taps when the try-line beckoned his enormous frame. Sailor and Rogers' fellow convert from league, Lote Tuqiri, scored his first try for the Wallabies, but it was the returning Stirling Mortlock who received the loudest cheer of the day when scoring just six minutes after coming on.

Whether that will be good enough to earn Mortlock his starting position is dubious, especially with the form of Matt Burke, whose first-half performance belied the critics who had said Eddie Jones was too keen to play it safe.

"Burkey and Stirls both played very well," Jones said. "They hit the ball at pace and made a number of breaks. The bench did really well, because what they did was finish the game off for us."

Unsurprisingly, Jones was particularly pleased with Flatley, who looks to have solved the goal-kicking headache. "He has been in outstanding form this year and probably has only really had one bad day," Jones said. "It was outstanding kicking."

For the proud Romanians, however, there were nothing but scowls. A tortuous schedule had them playing two of the world's top four teams in the same week. "We are very disappointed," said their coach, Bernard Charreyre. "It's very difficult for us, because we meet Ireland and only days later we meet the world champions."

And there was little consolation to be found for the Romanians. Next up are the Argentinians on Wednesday. Ouch.

Australia 90
Tries: Flatley, Rogers 3, Burke 2, Larkham 2, Mortlock, Roff, Giteau, Tuqiri, Smith
Cons: Flatley 11
Pen: Flatley

Romania 8
Try: Toderasc
Pen: Tofan

Half-time: 38-8 Attendance: 48,778

Australia: M Rogers; W Sailor, M Burke (S Mortlock, 50), E Flatley, J Roff; S Larkham, G Gregan (M Giteau, 41); B Young, B Cannon (J Paul, 51), A Baxter (B Darwin, 45), D Vickerman (J Harrison, 53), N Sharpe, G Smith, P Waugh (L Tuqiri, 64), D Lyons (M Cockbain, 57).

Romania: D Dumbrava; G Brezoianu, V Maftei, R Gontineac, C Sauan; I Tofan, L Sirbu (C Podea, 63); P Toderasc, R Mavrodin (M Socaciu, 50), S Florea (C Popescu, 50), S Socol, C Petre, M Nicolai (M Tudori, 9), O Tonita, G Chiriac.

Referee: Pablo Deluca (Argentina).