Ireland 44 | Romania 10
This was not a vintage Irish performance although, in truth, it did not need to be. The Men in Green showed their intent to play a high tempo, expansive game of rugby from the start, with the ball being passed along the back line from the opening minute. However, a lack of clinical finishing was evident in the first half, with Simon Zebo running out of space after a rapid break by the Irish team. Despite the fact that the Irish did manage to score through the boot of Ian Madigan to exert control over proceedings, they had to wait for 20 minutes for Tommy Bowe’s first score. A perfectly weighted box kick by Reddan and a well-timed pass by Zebo allowed Bowe to touch down by the corner flag. There is a concern that the overlap and angle for the attack will be less effective against better opposition.
Ireland continued to the Romanian fitness levels with Zebo again providing an assist with a long pass to Earls who turned on the gas to crash over. It wasn’t all rosy, though. Jared Payne looked unconvincing in Ireland’s thirteen shirt as only an advantage for a Romanian infringement spared him the consequence of a very poor tactical kick.
A number of players stood out for Ireland throughout the game. Among them was Cian Healy who provided muscular ball carrying up front and played an important role in Keith Earls’ second try. Healy’s put pressure on the Romanian clearance which was charged down by Rob Kearney. Following a maul, an excellent grubber kick was gratefully accepted and touched down by Earls.
The bonus point was a while coming, but it came from the set piece solidity once again. The ball was moved through the hands from the base of the scrum and transferred to Bowe and the Monaghan man made no mistake. Further gloss on the score line was added by Kearney and Henry as the opposition began to tire. Darren Cave also was priceless in Ireland’s centre midfield as pressure was applied to the established pairing of Hemshaw and Payne, with footwork and creativity reminiscent of the days of UCD man Brian O’ Driscoll.
A worrying stat for Schmidt will be the failure to keep a clean sheet of tries over the last fortnight, with a defensive error from Madigan allowing Romania’s Tonita to score under the posts. A professional dismissal of a side who gave France a fight last Wednesday and a relatively rude health bill means that the general message now is so far so good.
Words by Conor Lynott