Romania improved their advantage at the top of the Rugby World Cup 2019 qualification standings by a point after registering their highest score in 13 years against a weakened Germany.
With only a handful of first-choice players available to new head coach Pablo Lemoine, Germany were a shadow of the side that shocked the Oaks 41-38 in the opening round of last year’s Rugby Europe Championship, results from which also count towards the qualification picture.
Romania ruthlessly exposed any weaknesses in their opponents to run in 13 tries in an 85-6 victory that had Lemoine’s opposite number Lynn Howells smiling from ear to ear at the final whistle in Cluj.
Following tries from Sione Fakaosilea and Mihaita Lazar, powerful winger Tangimana Fonovai crossed twice and captain Mihai Macovei added another as the Oaks took a 31-6 lead into half-time. Germany’s points had come from two Tim Menzel penalties.
The floodgates truly opened at the start of the second half as Romania rocked Germany with three tries in the space of 11 minutes, Stelian Burchea followed over the whitewash by Paula Kinikinilau and Ionut Dumitru.
Giant centre Fakaosilea finished off a good handling move for his second approaching the hour mark before Kinikinilau and Macovei both bagged their second tries. Replacement Alin Coste got in on the act too, and then Stephen Shennan completed the scoring with a beautifully taken chip-and-chase try.
CLOSE IN KRASNODAR
Spain maintained the pressure on Romania in the race for the Europe 1 spot with a hard-fought 20-13 win against Russia in Krasnodar.
The victory means they are now three points adrift of Romania but seven ahead of Russia, their nearest rivals for the European play-off against Portugal should they fail to catch the Oaks.
The Bears looked to have scored a certain try and the chance to draw level with Spain when replacement forward Tagir Gadzhiev picked up the ball from the base of a ruck and clearly planted the ball over the line with a few minutes of a bruising contest remaining.
Yuri Kushnarev would have been left with the simplest of conversions to tie the scores at 20-20 but referee Frank Murphy was on the wrong side of a big pile of bodies and unsighted and, without the benefit of a TMO, had no option but to award an attacking five-metre scrum instead.
Spain withstood the mounting pressure thereafter to celebrate their first victory on Russian soil since 2002.
Russia had got off to a great start when centre Dmitri Gerasimov gathered a kick from scrum-half Alexey Shcherban and dotted down for a try, converted by Kushnarev, with just nine minutes gone.
Spain hit back with a mauled try for Guillaume Rouet, before Kushnarev put Russia 10-5 up with a penalty just past the half-hour mark.
Shortly after, the lead changed hands for the third time when scrum-half Rouet slipped through a tackle to cross for his second. On this occasion, Brad Linklater added the extras and landed a penalty on the stroke of half-time to give Spain a 15-10 advantage.
Linklater spurned the chance to extend Spain’s lead when he struck the upright with his next penalty attempt in the 50th minute.
Russia wrestled the initiative back from the visitors with some impressive interplay between backs and forwards, but the Bears couldn’t find an end product and had to rely on another penalty from Kushnarev for their next points.
Spain looked to have killed the game off when a brilliant cross-field kick from fly-half Mathieu Belie ended up in the arms of flanker Pierre Barthere wide out on the left and the 28-year-old ran in unopposed from 10 metres out.
In a fractious end to the game, only a last-ditch tackle prevented long-striding forward Andrei Garbuzov giving Russia the try they desperately needed before fellow replacement Gadzhiev was denied at the death.
GEORGIA TRIUMPH IN NEW SURROUNDINGS
In the first match of the day, Georgia outclassed Belgium, the Lelos marking their first competitive game in the city of Kutaisi for 13 years with an emphatic 47-0 bonus-point victory.
Already qualified for RWC 2019 thanks to their third-place pool finish at the last tournament in England, Georgia’s only concern in this year’s Rugby Europe Championship is to wrestle the overhaul title back from Romania.
And coach Milton Haig could not have asked for much more from his side as they kept their opponents to nil for the second time in seven matches, having shut out Canada back in June.
The first three of Georgia’s seven tries belonged to the front-row union, hooker Shalva Mamukashvili dotting down in between scores for tight-head Levan Chilachava and loose-head Zurab Zhvania. All three tries were converted by full-back Beka Tsiklauri, who then converted his own try to hand Georgia a 28-0 half-time lead.
Georgia failed to score while Zhvania was in the sin-bin at the start of the second half but normal service was resumed when winger Giorgi Pruidze crossed in the 55th minute. Alexandre Todua added another from the opposite flank before replacement Anzor Sichinava rounded off the scoring, with Tsiklauri adding both conversions for a final scoreline of 47-0.
Photos: FRR, Anastasia Osipova and Gogita Bukhaidze