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Dublin: 10°C Tuesday 18 May 2021


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WELCOME! Scotland are the first of the Six Nations sides to get underway in this year’s Rugby World Cup. Having never failed to make the quarter-finals, they’ll be hoping for a victory over a relatively strong Romania side.

Here are how the two teams will line out:

Scotland– Paterson, Evans, Ansbro, Lamont, Danielli, Jackson, Blair; Jacobsen, Ford, Cross, Gray, Kellock, Brown, Barclay, Vernon.

Romania– Dumitras, Ciuntu, Gal, Dimofte, Lemnaru, Dumbrava, Surbu; Lazar, Tincu, Ion, Ursache, Petre, Macovei, Tonita, Carpo.

The teams are just lining out for the anthems on what looks like a cold and blustery day in Ivercargill. The Romanian anthem has a soaring, Soviet-era quality to it. It’s not quite the Haka, but pretty intimidating all the same. Ireland’s Call, it most certainly isn’t.

Scotland enter this World Cup the most optimistic they’ve been in years. Their back line is beginning to look more dynamic– like it might, just possibly, contain a hint of try potential– but Romania are something of an unknown quality. If they can challenge Scotland at the breakdown, it could get interesting.

Dumitras gets the game underway and Scotland successfully recover the ball. Courtesy of a marvellous line-break from Sean Lamont, the Scots find themselves in the Romania 22 in a matter of three phases. Under pressure, the Romanians infringe at the breakdown. The result is a penalty under the posts for Paterson. He doesn’t miss those. Scotland 3-0 Romania

Try! Scotland are looking lively, running the ball at pace into contact. After a few minutes of handling errors and kicking ping-pong, Danielli finds space on the left and blazes down the left wing. He cuts inside and finds a willing Mike Blair with the offload. Blair, looking disbelievingly around at the amount of space he’s been given applies the gas and runs the ball in under the posts.

Incredibly, Paterson misses the conversion from right in front of the posts! Alright, there were extenuating circumstances: the ball toppled off the tee just as the Scot swung his right boot through.

Scotland 8 – 0 Romania

Scottish indiscipline gifts Romania two penalties in as many minutes. While the wind plays havoc with the first, Dumbravas second coasts inside the left post. Scotland 8 – 3 Romania

Richie Gray’s penalised for not rolling away and Romania are given a penalty that they gladly thump into touch. After seizing the lineout, the Romanians begin to pick and go.

Scotland relieve the pressure with a kick into the Romanian half and steal the ball at the resulting lineout. After probing the Romanian line with a few speculative phases, Evans breaks into space– he looks through, but the referee blows for crossing.

Danielli, Evans and Paterson find themselves in acres of space in the Romanian half. Rather than offload to Paterson, who’s hanging on his right shoulder, Danielli slows down and decides to angle his run across the face of an unrushing Romanian forward… only he drifts too close and gets brought to ground.

That’s a scandalous bit of decision-making from the Ulster winger. Andy Robinson looks to be quietly cursing to himself in the manger’s booth.

Danielli mightn’t be thinking straight, but Jo Ansbro is! Coming onto a pass at pace in midfield, the centre sidesteps a his man and runs the ball over for Scotland’s second try! Paterson makes the conversion this time.

Scotland 15 – 3 Romania

Yet agains, Scotland follow a moment of attacking inspiration with one of defensive ineptitude. Barclay is penalised for not rolling away when Scotland gather the restart. Dumbrava makes no mistake with the penalty.

Scotland 15 – 6 Romania

Limited though they are, the Romanian’s unremitting physicality is causing Scotland a few problems, forcing handling errors and moments of indiscipline. If only they had the back line to take advantage of their opponents’ fragility…

Romania have begun to dictate the pace of the game, putting together a series of convincing set-pieces to progress within spitting distance of the Scottish line.

SHOCKER! After dominating a scrum five meters from the Scottish line– so much so that they find themselves in receipt of a penalty– the Romanians opt to kick for goal rather than reset! Dumbrava, falling prey to the wind, promptly misses the kick.


Romania obliterate the Scottish scrum again and very nearly run in a try. Ciuntu was only a favourable bounce of the ball away from collecting a clever box kick and leaving Max Evans in his wake.

Some sketchy scrum mechanics from Paulica Ion leaves Chris Paterson with an attempt from well inside the Romania half, right in front of the posts. The fullback makes no mistake.

Scotland 18 – 6 Romania

Big Johnnie Barclay’s pinged for not rolling away after the restart. Not confident in their place-kicking ability, Romania play for the corner. It turns out to be the correct decision, as Romania form a rolling maul at the base of the lineout and charge over for a try!

Dumbrava hooks the conversion wide.

Scotland 18 – 11 Romania

Half-time. So far, Romania’s play has been entirely in keeping with my knowledge of Easter European rugby… the sum total of which is contained in this video:

They’re as hard as nails and Scotland are really struggling to compete with them at both the breakdown and set-pieces.

Andy Robinson will be asking for fewer unforced errors and more aggressiveness in his half-time team talk. I’m not sure if he’s one for the hairdyer treatment, but Simon Danielli is more than deserving.

Jackson gets us back underway in the second half, and Romania spill possession, leaving Scotland with a scrum just inside their opponents’ half.

The Eastern Europeans play havoc at the scrum, however, and force a turnover. Several passes later and a threatening break is halted when Carpo forces a needless forward pass. Agh! So close…

Blair’s beginning to get quicker ball now and the game opens up as Paterson, Lamont and Ansbro begin to express themselves.

Under pressure, Romania give away penalty… that Paterson misses! He wasn’t even close.

A Scottish line-out mere metres from the Romanian line ushers in a period of sustained pressure from the favourites. Scotland nearly run the ball in twice, with Paterson finding himself dragged out of play a metre short of the try line and Barclay held up over it after a quick penalty NEARLY took the Romanians by surprise. Some heavy-hitting last-ditch defending forces the error from Scotland, though, and Romania are offered a reprieve.

Romania are penalised for slowing the ball down and Paterson finds himself within striking distance. Banking right-to-left on the wind, his penalty splits the posts.

Scotland 21 – 11 Romania

Dimofte has assumed kicking duties for the Romanians, with Dumbrava having been substituted. Finding himself with a penalty in front of the Scottish posts, the centre punts a low, poorly struck ball straight over.

Scotland 21 – 14 Romania

A couple of substitutions predating the last Romanian penalty:

Hines for Gray

Parks for Jackson

Dumbrava for Cazan

Sirbu for Surugiu

Scotland are really struggling here… Romania are causing chaos!

They win a penalty a couple of metres short of the Scottish line and Dimofte opts for the kick. It’s there:

Scotland 21 – 17 Romania

Parks puts the restart out on the full and Romania have a scrum on the halfway line.

Cusiter is on for Blair; Ross Rennie is on for Johnnie Barclay.

Dickinson is on for Jacobsen now, too.

Scotland begin to pass the ball again, but Lamont loses it in contact and Surugiu fires a wonderful kick into the Scottish corner. Though the Scots claim the line-out, the touch judge spots a knock-on and gifts Romania a scrum five yards out.

Romania put on a mighty shove and No8 Daniel Carpo bundles over for ANOTHER TRY!

Dimofte converts the extras, and it’s:

Scotland 21 – 24 Romania

The Scottish fans have lapsed into a dumbfounded silence.

Romania have made a numberr of substitutions… I’ll give you the details in a minute…

There’s an air of desperation about the Scottish play now, with players running hither and thither in a manic, uncoordinated rush. Romania hold fast as Danielli breaks down the left wing, but suddenly, Paterson finds himself with a penalty practically under the posts.

Scotland 24 – 24 Romania

This is tense.

Scotland are trying to settle themselves: a series of pick-and-goes leaves Parks with enough space to dispatch a kick into the Romanian half. Cazan collects it and launches it into touch.

Try for Scotland! A moment of brilliance from Max Evans in the middle of the Park leaves Vernon with space to break down the left wing. Moving at a fair clip for a No8, the back row finds Simon Danielli who, stumpy mullet in tow, runs the ball over for a crucial score.

Paterson, however, misses the conversion from near the left touchline, leaving it right and wide of the posts.

Scotland 29 – 24 Romania

Another try from Danielli! A turnover by Ross Rennie leaves Scotland breaking down the right. The ball is flung from hand-to-hand, with a series of backs and forwards alike loping into the Romanian line. Eventually, it reaches Danielli on the near touchline, who dives over the line to secure a bonus point for Scotland.

Paterson looks convinced that he’s made the correct allowance for the wind, but again– for the third time– the ball careens high, wide and right of the posts.

Scotland 34 – 24 Romania

Full time! Scotland 34 – 24 Romania

Though they came within minutes of a shocking defeat, Scotland have managed to escape with both a victory and the all-precious bonus point. Quite what effect all of this will have on team morale is anyone’s guess. While it’s tempting to say that their performance for the first 70 minutes was poor enough to dissipate their sizeable pre-tournament momentum, the manner in which they rescued the game was oddly impressive. One senses that a dominant performance against Georgia next week is an absolute must.

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