Romania produced an inspired second-half performance to rally from 15-point deficit and beat Canada 17-15 in their Rugby World Cup Pool D match this morning, clinching a dramatic victory with a nerveless late penalty from center Florin Vlaicu.
Both sides entered the match without a chance of qualifying for the next round of this particular tournament, but both could still finish third in the section and therefore avoid the qualification process for the World Cup in 2019.
Canada appeared to be in complete control when left winger DTH Van Der Merwe scored late in the first half – his fourth try of the tournament – and right winger Jeff Hassler crossed four minutes after halftime.
“We said if we could stay within 14 points going into the last 20 minutes we could start playing the sort of rugby we wanted”. Only 13 games in Rugby World Cup history have ever seen fewer points in the opening 40 minutes.
Canada’s players appealed for a double-movement on the second try, but referee Wayne Barnes – standing close by – awarded it after asking for a television referral.
McRorie missed the kick from out wide and he was not alone in struggling from the tee, as Vlaicu fell short with another long-range penalty shortly before half-time.
Another scrum penalty three minutes from time opened the way for Florin Vlaicu to kick his team to a famous victory.
Down to 14, Romania resisted for a while but with 33 minutes played, Canada finally struck as an excellent pick-up and offload from McRorie began the break and before Romania could reorganise, play spread left and Van der Merwe cruised over for his sixth try in five matches. The try was converted by flyhalf Nathan Hirayama for a 15-0 lead. To achieve that, the Romanians have to beat Canada, then Italy next weekend in its pool finale.
“The truth is that we don’t think about winning here, but about showing our game, and if we win it will be as a outcome of doing things well”, captain Santiago Vilaseca said.
The Canadians will rue being unable to make the most of the string of scoring chances in the first half and the inaccuracy with the boot of halfback Gordon McRorie, who missed two penalties and a conversion. Captain Mihai Macovei was credited with the score which centre Florin Vlaicu converted.
“Romania deserved their win, got their maul together, got their scrum together and scored the points”.
“I’m pleased for myself, but I’m also pleased to take the Romanian team to the next level, which will be exciting”, said Howells. “They’ll have a beer but it won’t be to any great extent”.
But Canada and Italy remain a tough proposition, although Howells is hopeful Romania can upset Canada at Leicester City Stadium on Tuesday to kick-start their tournament.