LEICESTER, 7 Oct - From the depths of despair and impending defeat, Romania captain Mihai Macovei found inspiration at Leicester City Stadium to set up a dramatic and unexpected victory.
The back-row forward scored two tries in the final 20 minutes, converted by centre Florin Vlaicu, before the latter slotted home a last-minute penalty to transform a 15-0 deficit into a 17-15 win in their Pool D match against Canada on Tuesday.
It was the biggest comeback in World Cup history and a tribute to the team’s unwavering spirit and physical supremacy, as well as the tactical nous of coach Lynn Howells.
An emotional Macovei paid tribute to the enthusiastic knot of supporters who roared on Romania from the stands and waited long after the final whistle to give them a rousing send-off. He insisted they spurred the Oaks on to turn the match on its head when all seemed lost.
"In our country rugby is a small family and we always enjoy having these fans even if they are just a small bunch," he said. "We dedicate this victory to them."
The skipper (pictured, left, celebrating with Vlaicu) also said his side were driven on by a bereavement suffered by a member of their camp.
"We also dedicate this victory to our scrum coach, Marius Tincu, whose mother died three days ago but decided to stay with the team," he added.
"For me and my colleagues it's important to believe in yourself. If you don't there is no place for you on the field. We have to believe in ourselves even if we play big teams, to believe until the last second that we are going to win."
Romania go into their final Pool D game against Italy at Sandy Park, Exeter, on Sunday knowing a win will guarantee automatic qualification for Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan.