Italy 32 Romania 22
Italy’s Rugby World Cup ended on a high as they survived a late rally from Romania to win their Pool D clash at Exeter’s Sandy Park.
Going into their final encounter both sides were already out having only beaten Canada – but the winners here would assure themselves of qualification for the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
And it was Italy, at times unconvincing in this tournament, who ran out 32-22 victors as Leonardo Sarto, Edoardo Gori and Tommaso Allan scored first-half tries with Alessandro Zanni adding the fourth shortly after the restart.
Romania had been second-best for much of the contest but showed their ability in the closing stages as a brace of tries from Adrian Apostol and a Valentin Popirlan effort closed The Oaks to within 10 points.
Italy were positive from the off but fell behind to Florin Vlaicu’s penalty, won after a determined and strong push by the Romanians.
But the favourites soon began a period of dominance that led to them coming close to the game’s first try on seven minutes.
Gori chased his own kick, bursting through the defence but fumbling over the line with the television match official confirming he had not landed the try.
It did not take long for the Azzurri to rectify that as Sarto went over after 11 minutes to give them a deserved lead – although Allan’s conversion attempt left a lot to be desired.
Italy’s speed was proving difficult for Romania and their task was made more challenging when Johannes van Heerden was shown a yellow card as he tripped Gori in an attempt to end another promising move – with Allan this time making sure of the penalty points.
The one-man advantage only hastened Italy’s ability to get a stranglehold and, after another try had been ruled out, Gori atoned for his knock-on as he added a second try for the Italians.
Once Van Heerden had returned, Italy showed their defensive ability to withstand heavy pressure from a marauding Romanian pack to keep them at bay.
Their steeliness helped them to a bigger half-time margin with Allan again showing Italy had too much pace for their counterparts, bursting through to score the third try on the stroke of the interval.
The second-half began where the first had left off as Italy continued to dominate – Francesco Minto having a try ruled out on review before Zanni added the fourth moments later.
A lull followed as Italy looked to close out the contest with little drama but Romania wanted to end a positive tournament in style and reduced the deficit with three tries in the last 14 minutes as Apostol went over either side of a Popirlan try.