LONDON, 27 Sept - Ireland ran in six tries against a resolute Romanian side at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, as man of the match Keith Earls and a free-spirited performance by Simon Zebo (pictured above) ensured a second bonus-point win to leapfrog France and top Pool D.
A pair of opportunistic tries from Earls, who drew level with the great Brian O’Driscoll on seven World Cup tries, and a double from Tommy Bowe eventually paved the way for a comfortable 44-10 victory ahead of what should prove a far sterner test against Italy next Sunday. Chris Henry and Rob Kearney were the other try scorers, although Kearney limped off raising fears of injury.
For Romania, a consolation try by stalwart Ovidiu Tonita underlined their commitment throughout and a record Rugby World Cup crowd of 89,267 gave them a rousing send-off at full time.
Ireland had a clear gameplan in the opening salvos. Surging forward at any given opportunity, Joe Schmidt's side were also floating the ball out wide with ease. But Romania remained stout in defence for those first five, frenetic minutes.
Forced to defend
After being forced to defend for long periods during their match against France in midweek, the opening quarter was always going to prove difficult. That much was clear from the statistics: an eye-opening 60 tackles made in the first 15 minutes alone.
Zebo, the Munster full-back, was enjoying himself immensely and was unlucky not to score the opening try. A galloping run down the left flank saw the speedster chip and charge, as the ball fell kindly for him to go over in the corner. Video replays, though, showed he had stepped into touch. So unlucky.
Undeterred, Ireland pressed on and another sweeping move saw Bowe go over in the corner for his third World Cup try in five outings. Zebo then turned provider minutes later with a wonderful looping pass into the gleeful hands of his Munster teammate Earls.
Having reached half-time 18-3 down, the heavy-legged Romanians – with Viorel Lucaci putting in quite a shift thanks to a plethora of tackles – perhaps knew that the game would open after the break.
Split the defence
Ireland made headway almost immediately when scrum-half Eoin Reddan’s superb dink chip split the defence, as Earls slid over in the corner once more.
The ebb and flow of this entertaining spectacle deserted the Wembley crowd until the 60thminute when Csaba Gal was handed a yellow for slowing the ball. A succession of phases for the Irish then saw a fizzing move out right before Bowe mustered his second score in the corner.
The game had now opened up as Ireland continued a merry march down the left flank, Zebo’s brilliant break handing Rob Kearney, on for Earls, a simple score.
With both sides having made their full quota of replacements, a driving Irish pack saw Chris Henry go over for their sixth. Tonita's muscle-driven score at the death sent everyone home happy.