Romania the final qualifier for RWC 2011
Romania have become the 20th and final qualifier for Rugby World Cup 2011 after overcoming Uruguay 39-12 before a passionate and vocal home crowd at the stadionul National Arcul de Triumf in Bucharest on Saturday.
The two sides had been locked at 21-21 after the first leg in Montevideo a fortnight ago, but Romania produced an impressive display to take their place in New Zealand alongside Argentina, England, Scotland and Georgia in Pool B.
The perfect script had been set for the 184th and final qualifier of a process that began back in April 2008, but Romania were determined to preserve their ever present record on the Rugby World Cup stage and make their experience count.
Two thousand additional seats had been added to the intimate Bucharest venue for this winner takes all qualifier and the atmosphere was understandably electric before kick-off with a huge cheer greeting the home side as they ran out to warm up.
Romania were expected to make home advantage count against a youthful Uruguayan outfit, but the nerves were very evident in the opening minutes with the Oaks making three handling errors inside four minutes to the frustration of their supporters.
Fly half Dan Dumbrava missed an early penalty attempt that would have settled those nerves, but Romania made no mistake in the ninth minute when they spread the Uruguayan defence with centre Csaba Gal powering through to touch down.
Dumbrava kicked the conversion and just three minutes later the Romanian lead was doubled when Alain Rolland, the RWC 2007 Final referee, awarded the home side a penalty try to the delight of the crowd clad in the national colours.
Things got worse for Uruguay, bidding to avoid a second successive aggregate loss in the final place play-off after their one-point heartbreak against Portugal in 2007, when second row Diego Magno was sin-binned in the 22nd minute.
Romania quickly made the man advantage count, number 8 Alexandru Manta touching down, just as he had done in the first leg in Montevideo a fortnight ago. Dumbrava added the conversion and the score remained at 21-0 to half-time.
With their Rugby World Cup 2011 dream seemingly in tatters it was vital that Uruguay got the next score if there was to be any way back, but instead it was Romania with a Dumbrava penalty to increase their advantage.
Uruguay did finally get themselves on the scoreboard with centre Martin Crosa’s try, but there was to be no comeback to savour, Romania wing Catalin Fercu touching down for the home side’s fourth try.
Replacement Ivo Dugonjic scored a second try for Uruguay, but there was still time on the clock for Romania to score again in the corner through Madalin Lemnaru, his fellow replacement Valentin Calafeteanu curling in the conversion and then adding a late penalty.
Romania’s place at Rugby World Cup 2011 had already been confirmed long before, but as the final whistle was blown by Rolland the noise was deafening, not only from the crowd but also the fireworks that lit up the Bucharest night sky.
There was another reason to smile for Marius Tincu, one of Romania's star players on the day, as the hooker learned after the final whistle that his wife had given birth to a daughter that morning.
POST MATCH REACTION
Romania coach Romeo Gontineac: "It is a hard job that we start now, the hardest job starts now. We will try to construct a very competitive team for the World Cup. This team that played today and the group we have, hopefully we will have 50 players until the summer to make a very good squad for the World Cup.
"I feel like I am flying now, it feels very good. It is a pleasure being a coach to see the team play exactly as you train them, to the game plan. I am glad and I congratulate the boys, they had a very good game. All of them, the 22 that we had today and the other guys in the 31 that stayed together, I congratulate all of them."
AUDIO: ROMEO GONTINEAC >>
Romania captain Sorin Socol: "It is a good thing, today we made the best things, qualification for Romania to the World Cup and we worked so hard these last two years. We have had good results and today we played like a real team, the forwards really dominated in scrums and lineouts and the backs scored every time they had the opportunity. That is a good thing and even if we had difficult moments sometimes, we know to restart and do it again.
"The crowd, they helped us so much because we had difficult moments in the first half and they really helped us through that, we felt them on the pitch with us."
"Every time you go to the World Cup, for a team like Romania who come from the second division of rugby in the world, honestly it is hard but we will try to do the best we can."
AUDIO: SORIN SOCOL >>
Romania assistant coach Steve McDowall: "They focused really well, a little bit nervous in the first couple of minutes, a couple dropped balls, but once they got their rhythm they really started to put the points on the board so a fantastic effort.
AUDIO: STEVE MCDOWALL >>
Uruguay coach Gonzalo Camardon: "It was one step too far. It was not our moment. We have a young team that needs some more international competition and needs to keep on working like this and maybe the next one.
"I think Romania was a lot more experienced, they propose a good game based on their forces so it is a matter of keep on working and keep on having matches like this. That’s where you test yourself.
"The basics were we didn’t work well. The scrum, our lineouts, we didn’t have the ball. When we ran the ball we created opportunities. They really get on the game and they took us off. It's really difficult when you don’t have the ball to make points."
Uruguay captain Carlos Arboleya: "It is terrible, I feel awful, I am very sad now. Hopefully we can get to the next World Cup, we are going to work for that.
"Tonight they were the better side. They make points with the ball, they take advantage of our errors, they were better.
"Hopefully this is the start of another try to get to a World Cup in the next four years with this young team.
AUDIO: CARLOS ARBOLEYA >>
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