France secured a hard-fought 38-11 bonus-point victory against Romania at the Olympic Stadium in London on Wednesday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
As one TV pundit pointed out: France will be happy with the scoreline, but not so much the play.
Given their minnow status, Romania were always going to be underdogs against a French side that comfortably beat fellow Six Nations participants Italy 32-10 four days ago. However, the Oaks held their own in a match where France played well in patches, but failed overall to make a statement of intent.
In fact, Romania were so competitive and strong defensively, France only managed to cross the tryline after the 30-minute mark when the Oaks were reduced to 14 players. And while they were unable to execute efficiently to keep the scoreboard ticking over, Romania kept France scoreless in the second half until the 66th minute.
Romania won over the sellout crowd early when they pushed France off the ball at the first scrum to win a penalty. But France scrumhalf Morgan Parra opened the scoring with a penalty.
Romania – and the crowd – thought they were over for the first try, but outside centre Paula Kinikinilau was held up off the ground. Referee Jaco Peyper had his arm out, though, and when the penalty was awarded, Romania’s record point-scorer Florin Vlaicu split the uprights to draw his team level.
Tighthead prop Paulică Ion was then yellow-carded for collapsing the maul in the 31st minute, which allowed France to pull away.
Two converted tries in the space of three minutes by wing Sofiane Guitoune and blindside flanker Yannick Nyanga saw Les Bleus lead 17-3, but undaunted by the sudden change in momentum, Romania kept on frustrating France at the breakdown. They won the desired penalty and Vlaicu popped over another kick as Romania trailed by 11 at the break.
The second half started off quietly, with Romania keeping France honest until the final quarter, before Guitoune's second score of the match saw them cut loose and finish with a flourish.
France conceded a try when Valentin Ursache scored a pushover effort for Romania, but centres Wesley Fofana and Gael Fickoü both ran in late tries to put some gloss on the scoreline.
France – Tries: Sofiane Guitoune (2), Yannick Nyanga, Wesley Fofana, Gael Fickoü. Conversions: Morgan Parra (3), Rory Kockott (2). Penalty: Parra.
Romania – Try: Valentin Ursache. Penalty: Florin Vlaicu (2).
France – 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Sofiane Guitoune, 13 Gael Fickoü, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Noa Nakaitaci, 10 Rémi Talès, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 6 Yannick Nyanga, 5 Alexandre Flanquart, 4 Bernard le Roux, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski (c), 1 Vincent Debaty.
Subs: 16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Nicolas Mas, 19 Yoann Maestri, 20 Damien Chouly, 21 Rory Kockott, 22 Frédéric Michalak, 23 Mathieu Bastareaud.
Romania – 15 Catalin Fercu, 14 Madalin Lemnaru, 13 Paula Kinikinilau, 12 Florin Vlaicu, 11 Adrian Apostol, 10 Danut Dumbrava, 9 Florin Sagugiu, 8 Mihai Macovei (c), 7 Viorel Lucaci, 6 Valentin Ursache, 5 Johan van Heerden, 4 Valentin Popârlan, 3 Paulică Ion, 2 Otar Turashvili, 1 Mihai Lazar.
Subs: 16 Andrei Radoi, 17 Andrei Ursache, 18 Horace Bags, 19 Ovidiu Tonita, 20 Stelian Burcea, 21 Valentin Calafeteanu, 22 Ionut Botezatu, 23 Csaba Gal.
Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images