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Dublin: 10 °C Saturday 6 June, 2020

Keith Earls stakes his claim as Ireland cruise past Romania

Keith Earls sparkled in London while Tommy Bowe hit back at his critics.

Keith Earls scores the first of his two tries.
Keith Earls scores the first of his two tries.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ireland 44

Romania 10

Rory Keane reports from Wembley 

IRELAND CRUISED TO a 44-10 victory against Romania with a ruthless and efficient performance in front of a World Cup record crowd of 89, 267 at Wembley.

Playing on a sublime surface bathed in glorious sunshine and roared on by an army of Irish supporters, Joe Schmidt’s side turned on the style at the home of English football.

Tommy Bowe and the outstanding Keith Earls bagged braces while Rob Kearney and Chris Henry also crossed. It was a good day at the office for Schmidt but the sight of Earls and Kearney leaving the field with head and leg injuries respectively in the second-half will be a cause for concern.

Ireland made an efficient and powerful start holding possession for the opening three minutes with every player contributing in a lung-busting 20-phase attack beginning from the opening kick-off.

Devin Toner looked a man on mission with the Leinster lock surging onto the ball on a number of occasions with Jordi Murphy and Jared Payne especially prominent. With the Romanian defence at breaking point, Tommy Bowe knocked on Eoin Reddan’s pass to bring an end to a promising build-up.

Richardt Strauss’ excellent jackal on tackled Oaks’ centre Paula Kinikinilau allowed Ian Madigan to fire over his first penalty of the afternoon in the sixth minute.

Romania finally got some possession with their three most dangerous players Michael Wiringi, Kinikinilau and Catalin Fercu all getting on the ball in a sweeping attack.  Payne was penalised for hands on the deck after bringing down Fercu allowing scrum-half Valentin Calafeteanu to level it up at 3-3 with 10 minutes of the contest played.

Zebo was then denied one of the tries of the tournament when the TMO Shaun Veldsman showed that the full-back’s foot was in touch following a superb chip and regather from the Corkman. A sublime counter-attack, initiated by Zebo, involving Payne, Murphy and a wondrous offload from Earls to Strauss sent Zebo on his way to what looked like the opening try, before Veldsman’s ruling.

Simon Zebo Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Ireland continued to rock through the phases with Oaks skipper Mihai Macovei getting a word from referee Craig Joubert as his side continued to stray offside. Madigan made no mistake with his second penalty attempt to put Ireland back into the lead.

Schmidt’s troops were on the rampage with Earls beating Adrian Apostol to a high ball to spark another attack with Murphy and Heaslip combining superbly to get Ireland well over the gain line. From the next phase, quick hands from Cian Healy, Madigan, Payne and Zebo sent Bowe crashing over in the corner. Madigan’s touchline conversion established a 10-point lead.

It was Zebo once again who provided the creative spark with his 25-metre skip pass releasing Earls down the left edge to glide over. Madigan’s conversion came back off the post with Ireland moving into an 18-3 lead.

It said a lot about the pace of the game and the quality of Ireland’s play that the first scrum of the match occurred in the 33rd minute with Healy getting the first opportunity to test his neck against Paulica Ion. Thankfully, the Leinster loosehead came through that examination with aplomb.

Cian Healy with Daniel Carpo Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ireland continued to hunt for a third try but Romania, to their credit, showed great resolve to keep them at bay before the break.

The men in green made in impressive start to the second-half with Healy’s raking kick forcing Botezatu to slice his clearance into touch giving Ireland a prime attacking platform.

From another powerful lineout maul, Redden threaded a deft kick in behind the Romanian defence for Earls to ghost over for Ireland’s third try of the evening.

Lynn Howells’ side were beginning to look weary with a monstrous Mexican Wave doing the rounds in the stadium in the 50th minute.

Substitute Florin Ionita was lucky sent to the sin bin for a careless tackle on Paddy Jackson, who replaced Payne in the 57th minute, in mid-air.

Approaching the hour mark, and still chasing the bonus point, Schmidt sent on Sean Cronin and Sean O’Brien for Strauss and Heaslip to add some ballast to the Irish attack.

Cave powered through Andrei Ursache’s tackle before being brought down inches short of the line. The Romanians once again infringed with centre Csaba Gal sent to the sin bin. Ireland immediately capitaliised on their numerical superiority as Bowe crashed over following a great play from Jackson and Reddan in the build-up.

The floodgates opened up after that with Zebo sending Rob Kearney for Ireland’s fifth following another explosive contribution from Madigan.

Rob Kearney scores their fifth try Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The sight of Kearney walking off the field with a leg injury shaking his head in the 70th minute was a cause for concern with Conor Murray forced to fill in on the wing.

Ireland’s sixth try soon arrived from yet another surging lineout drive with the industrious Chris Henry touching down.

Having been on the back foot for the majority of the contest, Romania veteran Ovidiu Tonita, who was appearing at his fifth World Cup, powered over from close range for a late consolation.

Ireland scorers:Tries: Bowe [2], Earls [2], Kearney, HenryConversions: Madigan [4]

Penalties: Madigan [2]

Romania scorers:

Tries: Tonita


Penalties: Calafeteanu, Vlaicu


Ireland: Simon Zebo; Tommy Bowe, Jared Payne (Paddy Jackson ‘57), Darren Cave, Keith Earls (Rob Kearney ’49 – ’53 HIA, ’62 [Conor Murray ‘70]); Ian Madigan, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy (Jack McGrath ‘53), Richardt Strauss (Sean Cronin ‘59), Nathan White (Tadhg Furlong ‘62); Donnacha Ryan (Paul O’Connell ‘62), Devin Toner; Jordi Murphy, Chris Henry, Jamie Heaslip (Sean O’Brien ‘59)

Romania: Catalin Fercu; Adrian Apostol (Florin Ionita ‘53), Paula Kinikinilau, Csaba Gal (’61 sin-bin), Ionut Botezatu; Michael Wiringi, Valentin Calafeteanu (Florin Surugiu ‘65); Andrei Ursache, Andrei Radoi (Otar Turashvili ‘55), Paulica Ion (Alexandru Tarus ‘53); Valentin Poparlan, Ovidiu Tonita; Viorel Lucaci (Johan Van Heerden ’59), Mihai Macovei (capt), Daniel Carpo

Replacements not used: Mihaita Lazar, Stelian Burcea

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