Five tries. The Bonus point. All in all, a good start by the Irish. Against really decent opposition they were easily the most impressive performers in this opening Pool A group.
From an Irish point of view it was a case of job done, foundation laid, next up Namibia. Simple as that. Eddie O’Sullivan can’t have expected much more after his side got everything that was on offer from this game against Romania in Gosford. Five tries gave them a bonus point and perhaps just as importantly they also injected valuable game time into Shane Horgan, John Hayes and John Kelly. They beat a Romanian side whose two tries were no more than they deserved and while they never threatened to cause an upset, they showed themselves to be a higher quality side than the pre-match hype (or lack of suggested).
The final scoreline hardly flattered the Irish but it might have been narrower had the Romanians a better kicker than Ionut Tofan who would not be entrusted with that particular responsibility if he were playing on a schools side.
Ireland, playing with the wind, took a 26 point lead into the interval. They then survived a period of Romanian dominance at the start of the second half that saw their lead reduced to 16 points. That they they did, owed a lot to the defence first of Girvan Dempsey and then his often ignored offence.
First, he stopped a certain try with a tackle under his own posts when Romania gained possession from a ball that came back off the posts and almost immediately featured in a breakout that ended with the 52nd minute try from Denis Hickie.
Keith Gleeson was also involved in that move but it was Dempsey who carried it on to the line and off-loaded to the on-rushing Hickie who had only to hold and ground. That Dempsey off-load was reminiscent of an evening in Donnybrook when he did likewise to break Bristol hearts in a Heineken Cup game.
At 31-10 there was never going to be a way back for a game and skilful Romanian side.
Victor Costello ensured the bonus point with a soft try off the back of the scrum in the 56th minute and ten minutes later, Ronan O’Gara, who had just come on as a replacement for David Humphreys showed lovely sleight of hand to put Hickie into space for try number five.
Romania had the final say when Valentin Maftei scored their second try and then Iulian Andrei added the conversion with an ease that made one wonder (and be glad) why he hadn’t been used earlier.
Afterwards, captain Keith Wood accepted that the Romanians knocked them back on occasions but didn’t put that down to nerves.
I’d be happy we got off to a reasonably good start. Conditions made it quite difficult out there. Yes, they did give us a lot of trouble, We expected them to. It wasn’t a question of nerves. They’re a good side. I don’t believe for one second we are going to come up against teams here who are going to sit back.
I think they played very well the best I’ve seen them play actually. Our first objective was to win and then if possible, get the bonus point. We achieved both objectives.
And on his contribution to the try-fest ? I couldn’t care less to be honest, just happy we won.
Centre Brian O’Driscoll, like his captain wasn’t surprised by the Romanians.
It was tough but we knew that was going to be the case. They are a very physical side. They bullied us, particularly up front and we were on the back foot for an awful lot of the game. Just glad to get that one out of the way I guess, bonus point and all.
He accepted that it was good to have the likes of Shane Horgan and John Hayes back in the side.
Shane did extremely well and I don’t know, I’d have to look at the video to see what John’s scrimmaging was like but I’d presume it was as good as ever. But Shaggy, (Horgan) did fantastically well for a man that hasn’t played international rugby for nine months.
All in all a good start by the Irish. Against really decent opposition they were easily the most impressive performers in this opening Pool A group.