HEAD OVER HEELS: French centre Wesley Fofana rolls over on the way to scoring a try against Romania on Wednesday at Olympic Stadium.
LONDON, 23 Sept - Romania's oldest and most experienced Rugby World Cup team failed to bring them the advantage they craved at the Olympic Stadium as they were beaten 38-11 by France on Wednesday in the 50th test between the two nations.
Ultimately it was France’s speed, fitness and passing skills which gave them their second win of the tournament after the 32-10 triumph against Italy at Twickenham on Saturday.
But there was a silver lining for Romania. Flanker Valentin Ursache carried the ball over the line after a lineout in the 74th minute to score his team's first-ever World Cup try against France. This was also the closest match between the two sides for 20 years, when Romania lost 24-15 to Les Bleus.
Forwards coach Marius Tincu said the team had celebrated the try “like a victory”.
"We have showed the world that we can compete against the big nations and done ourselves and our country proud," Tincu added.
Romania began well, forcing eight turnovers in the first half and having the majority of the possession. French second-row Bernard Le Roux admitted Romania’s start had surprised Les Bleus.
“Physically they were really on form,” Le Roux said. “They played well. They were really strong in defence."
It looked as though Romania had scored the first try of the match after 18 minutes, but television match official (TMO) George Ayoub ruled that centre Florin Vlaicu failed to touch down.
Although Vlaicu, Romania’s leading points scorer, added another three to his career total with a penalty shortly afterwards to make it 3-3, the missed try was the start of France’s domination.
A yellow card for Romania prop Paulica Ion in the 30th minute proved costly and Les Bleus took control. Wing Sofiane Guitoune and flanker Yannick Nyanga scored in quick succession and scrum-half Morgan Parra’s accurate kicking saw the tries converted, all within five minutes of referee Jaco Peyper (RSA) showing the card.
France coach Philippe Saint-Andre revealed he gave his 23 men a talking-to in the changing room at half-time:
"I was not so happy. We wanted a faster tempo and in the first 40 minutes we had gone through no more than two phases. Romania were tough in the contact area and we were not accurate enough."
His words had an effect. Guitoune scored again in the 66th minute after French wing Noa Nakaitaci and full-back Brice Dulin had both come close. Man-of-the-match Wesley Fofana touched down three minutes later and replacement scrum-half Rory Kockott slotted the conversion.
There was now no stopping Les Bleus. With the Romania defence fading, Fofana thought he had scored again, although TMO Ayoub ruled the ball had been lost forward. But France did add a fifth try in the closing minutes of the match when centre Gael Fickou broke free from Romania.
The Oaks’ captain Mihai Macovei acknowledged that Ion’s trip to the sin bin cost Romania 14 points, adding that weariness began to take its toll in the last quarter.
Despite the scoreline, Romania can take comfort from their positive start to the match. Overall, they won 11 turnovers compared with France’s six, and six scrums to France’s four. They also conceded just eight penalties compared with 13 given away by their opponents.
Head coach Lynn Howells said Romania’s aim had been to maintain position and “realistically to try and stop France from playing the quick, wide game that they like to play”.
Howells’ men achieved that aim in the first half, but once tiredness set in Romania started sending on their replacements to ensure that they have a full squad to pick from. The Oaks face Ireland in four days and will expect that match to be just as tough.