Emerging Ireland extended their lead at the top of the IRB Nations Cup table to two points after running out 51-3 winners over a combative Uruguay side in Bucharest yesterday.
Dan McFarland’s charges were actually on course to secure the Nations Cup title with a game to spare when Russia opened up an 18-6 lead over tournament hosts Romania in the day’s second game.
But two converted penalty tries saw the Romanians clinch their second victory of the competition – 20-18 – to set up a winner-takes-all clash with Emerging Ireland on Sunday evening (kick-off 7pm local time/5pm Irish time).
The Lynn Howells-coached Oaks, who are the defending champions, have eight points with the Irish side two ahead of them courtesy of their back-to-back bonus point wins over Russia and Uruguay.
Yesterday’s 48-point defeat of ‘los Teros’ saw Emerging Ireland boost their try haul to 17 overall and they have yet to concede a try in the Romanian capital.
Head coach McFarland and Johne Murphy, the captain for the day, were both pleased with the result but admitted that the performance was blighted by some uncharacteristic errors.
Acknowledging that it was a ‘far more competitive’ test for his side than the Russia match, McFarland told the Irish Examiner: “Uruguay were able to disrupt us a lot more and caused us a lot of trouble at the breakdown, not all of it was legal mind you.
“That disrupted our continuity but we also made a lot of our own errors and that was in contrast to the first game when we couldn’t put a foot wrong…we turned ball over in really good positions.
“I told the boys afterwards that we coughed up too much ball, but we still managed to score 50 points and that can’t be taken away from them.”
Emerging Ireland were well on course for their second try-scoring bonus point when leading 22-3 at half-time, with touchdowns from Craig Gilroy, Michael Kearney and Paddy Butler.
Number 8 Butler completed his brace in the second half and Billy Holland and Paul Marshall also crossed the whitewash in the final quarter to add to a penalty try.
Skipper Murphy, who played on the right wing, commented: “It’s a good win for us but I don’t think we are too happy with our accuracy at times and we definitely need plenty of work before playing Romania on Sunday.
“We scored some good tries, but I am sure we could definitely do better especially if you think about the number of knock-ons and turnovers we had.
“Uruguay were very determined and their tackling was fantastic, they kept going to the end and pushed us all the way, despite the score.”
Emerging Ireland picked up some injuries during the seven-try triumph with a finger injury seeing flanker Sean Dougall withdrawn after just 12 minutes, while Butler and JJ Hanrahan (both leg), Michael Kearney and Luke McGrath (both head) are also nursing knocks.
Looking ahead to Sunday’s title decider, Murphy added: “Romania are probably the best of our opponents. It’s their home ground and they will be looking to finish off with a flourish. They’re another very physical side so (the Uruguay game) is probably a good lead up to it.”