France 38 Romania 11: If Ireland had allowed any complacency to creep into their minds ahead of Sunday’s clash with Romania then this will have surely eradicated it.
The history books will show France as winners of this Pool D match and with a bonus point to boot, but in reality it was much harder than that.
Phillipe Saint-Andre’s explosive half-time rant said it all, as although the French led 17-6 they were being dominated when it came to possession and territory.
As Japan have already showed the world there are now no easy games at a World Cup and France were made to work for their victory.
Saint-Andre elected to make 13 changes from the side that saw off Italy in the opening weekend and his team’s erratic display may make Joe Schmidt wonder about undertaking a similar tactic.
As although it took just seven minutes for the French to get on the scoreboard with Morgan Parra calmly slotting a kick from the under the posts, the floodgates did not open.
Instead Romania demonstrated the grit and determination that has become synonymous with the smaller sides of this tournament.
The big tackles flew in, line-outs were stolen and scrums taken against the head. A kick to the corner after winning a penalty on the French try line signalled Romania’s intent — they were here for the scalp.
The gamble so nearly paid off as from the following attack Florin Vlaicu crashed over the line, only for the TMO to clarify that he had been held up. Instead Romania had to settle for just three points from a penalty advantage.
The confidence from Romania was there for all to see, hungry to replicate the heroics of Japan against South Africa. The lead should have been theirs when yet another penalty was won, this time though Vlaicu dragged his effort wide.
As they often do though, France then went through gears. A kick to the corner lead to a ferocious maul which Romania could only prevent by Paulica Ion pulling it down and heading to the sin bin. It would prove decisive.
Moments later the French had their first try, Parra spinning it wide and allowing Sofiane Guitoune to skip past his man and score in the corner.
This time the floodgates did open as the 14 men of Romania suffered. Parra was again at the heart of it, lofting a delightful pass to Alexandre Flanquart, who drew his man before putting in Yannick Nyanga to score out wide.
Parra kicked the extras and finally the scoreboard began to look as many had suspected; 17-3 to France. A penalty in the final minute before half-time kept Romania within touching distance and trailing by 11 at the interval.
Restored to 15 men at the break Romania continued to try their upmost to spoil the party. It was proving successful. More impressive defending on their own try line led to French frustration and as the game crept into the final 20 minutes it was still just 17-6.
The resistance finally caved though as fitness and fatigue began to hurt Romania. France ran the ball through the hands and with 15 minutes remaining Guitoune’s second try put Saint-Andre’s side just one more away from a bonus point.
That came minutes later as Wesley Fofana marked his return to the team with a try, receiving a pop pass from Brice Dulin before brushing past three tackles to score.
There was, though, a worthy try for Romania before the game’s conclusion. Fittingly it came from a set-piece, an area Lynn Howells’ side had excelled in all night. Andrea Radoi’s throw found Valentin Ursache and he led the maul over the line for a deserved score.
Just to reassert their dominance, France added a fifth try late on as Gael Fickou scythed through the defence to score under the posts.
In the end, it was the result Phillippe Saint-Andre would have wanted. The victory and bonus point was secured but the wholesale changes almost proved costly.
It is a cautionary tale Ireland would do well to take note of. Romania are not here to make up the numbers and as they return to the Olympic Stadium on Sunday they will be sure to show Schmidt’s side just that.
Dulin; Guitoune, Fickou, Fofana, Nakaitaci; Tales, Parra (Kockott 68); Debaty (Ben Arous 68), Szarzewski (Kayser 49), Atonio (Mas 49), Le Roux, Flanquart, Nyanga, Ouedraogo, Picamoles (Chouly 49).
Fercu; Lemnaru, Kinikinilau, Vlaicu, Apostol (Botezatu 71); Dumbrava (Gal 46), Surugiu (Calafeteanu 71); Lazar (Ursache 70), Turashvili (Radoi 58), Ion (Pungea 72), Poparlan (Tonita 72), van Heerden, Ursache, Lucaci (Burcea 71), Macovei.
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