France leapfrogged Ireland at the top of Pool D with a five-try bonus point win over Romania, in a game of limited entertainment value
Credit in defeat
Romania have always had a reputation as strong scrummagers, built in their pomp in the Eighties. They rolled back the years on a fresh September evening in East London giving a massive French pack all sorts of problems. It helped that their front row played in the Top 14. Perpignan’s Paulica Ion and Castres looshead Mihaita Lazar got under the larger Vincent Debaty and Uini Atonio a torrid time, leading to Nicolas Mas being brought on early in the second-half to shore up the pack. The Romania pack are well aware they’re in the shop window and scouts from the Pro12 and Guinness Premiership will have been watching intently.
Les Bleus show the clinical touch
In the 29th minute, the hitherto excellent Paulica Ion was adjudged to have been trying to pull a maul down and shown a yellow card. Les Bleus used the time profitably, scoring 14 unanswered points to put a difficult 30 minutes behind them. First Sofiane Guitoune showed adept footwork to enable him to dot down in the corner, then Yannick Nyanga profited after a a classy Brice Dulin break. Two beautifully weighted Morgan Parra’s conversions added the extra to give them breathing space.
Philippe Saint-Andre giving Les Bleus the hairdryer
At half-time, television cameras were given a peek into the French changing room. Philippe Saint-Andre was going barmy, shouting and berating his players for their indifferent first-half display. It was actually good to see the mild-mannered former French wing showing passion. Even though he is scheduled to leave France at the end of the tournament, his pride was shown it all its visceral glory. Not so much fun for the players, mind you.
It had not been an evening for the aesthetes but after 73 minutes, the Romanian’s engineered a driving maul metres from the French line, wheeled round and Valentin Ursache powered over the line. You’d have thought Romania had edged to bonus point territory, or even better taken the lead by the giddy nature of their celebrations, but they were 20 points adrift. It just goes to show how much it meant to the players and bench. The smile on Lynn Howells‘ face was nearly worth the price of entry alone. Nearly!
French struggled on the deck
In the first half-an-hour, France had already been humbled at the breakdown with Yannick Nyanga and Fulgence Ouedraogo being comprehensively outplayed on the deck. The Romanian’s got over the ball without giving France any chance to settle. Improved coaching since 2011 showed. Lynn Howells had obviously spent a huge amount time drilling the Oaks to flood the breakdown and it worked. Despite a slight upturn in the second-half, Chris Henry and Sean O’Brien will be not be losing sleep.
Dimitri Szarzewski had to leave the field in the first half with blood streaming from his face after a nasty wound below his eye after going to ground. A Romanian forward looked to be a little ‘clumsy’ with his rucking and the citing commissioner may be asked for a second look. Whether he’s given the benefit of the doubt remains to be seen.
In an uninspiring 70 minutes, there were four tries in the space of five minutes – two in the first and two in the second – apart from that it was messy, laborious and uninspiring. It said everything that after 63 minutes, both sides had only offloaded 12 times. To put that into context, Sonny Bill Williams had offloaded 11 times on his own in 35 minutes against Argentina. It was right up there as the worst game of the tournament so far. Still, the Olympic Stadium looked resplendent.
France beat 26 defenders compared to Romania who beat 6
France conceded 16 turnovers compared to Romania’s 9
France completed 68 of their 74 tackles (92%) compared to 79 of 105 by Romania (75%)
Brice Dulin was the game’s best carrier with 134 metres, full-back Catalin Fercu was next best with 63
France’s Bernard Le Roux and Romania’s Johann Van Heerden were the game’s top tacklers with 11
B Dulin, Guitoune, G Fickou, W Fofana, N Nakaitaci, Tales, M Parra (R Kockott 67); V Debaty (E Ben Arous 67), D Szarzewski (B Kayser 50), U Atonio (N Mas 50), B Le Roux, A Flanquart, Y Nyanga, F Ouedraogo, L Picamoles (D Chouly 50)
Not used: Y Maestri, F Michalak, M Bastareaud
Tries (5): Sofiane Guitoune (2), Yannick Nyanga, Wesley Fofana, Gael Fickou
Penalty: (1): Parra
Cons: Parra (2), Kockott (2)
Romania: C Fercu, M Lemnaru, P Kinikinilau, F Vlaicu, A Apostol (I Botezatu 78), D Dumbrava (C Gal 47), F Surugiu (V Calafeteanu 75), M Macovei (c), V Lucaci (S Burcea 79), V Ursache, J Van Heerden, V Poparlan (O Tonita 71), P Ion (H Pungea 80), 2 O Turashvili (A Radoi 59), M Lazar (A Ursache 72)
Try: Valentin Ursache
Penalty: Florin Vlaicu (2)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Man of the Match: Wesley Fofana