Ireland sailed to their second bonus point win of the World Cup by overcoming Romania 44-10 at Wembley on Sunday to go top of Pool D.
Ulster’s Tommy Bowe and Munster’s Keith Earls scored twice to combine with tries from Leinster’s Rob Kearney and Ulsterman Chris Henry in a fine performance by Joe Schmidt’s side.
The Irish fans generated a terrific atmosphere inside Wembley where a record Rugby World Cup attendance of 89,267 turned the stadium green.
Ireland generated an early lead through two penalties from Ian Madigan, before Romania’s scrum-half Valentin Calafeteanu put his team on the scoreboard with a response from the kicking tee.
Full-back Simon Zebo produced a tremendous effort near the touchline, to only have a foot in touch deny Ireland their first try. However, the Munster man was involved shortly after when he combined with Earls in attack to send Bowe over in the right corner, with Madigan adding the extras.
Zebo was busy again within minutes, producing the perfect pass out wide to Earls, who used his pace to go over in the left corner on the 28th minute. Madigan narrowly missed the conversion.
The half finished at 18-3 with Ireland entering into a defensive period as Romania gathered some momentum. It was three minutes into the second-half when Eoin Reddan sent a kick through for Earls to gather and score his second of the game, with Madigan converting.
Replacement Paddy Jackson was involved in the next attack, which saw the Ulsterman combine with Reddan to set up Bowe out wide for the bonus point try, as Madigan kept the scoreboard ticking with another successful conversion attempt.
Ulster’s Cave broke through the line to find the ever-present Zebo on the left wing, who passed inside to find replacement Rob Kearney for the score.
Cave continued to find holes in the Romanian defence in the final quarter and came close before an eventual attack off an efficient line-out saw Henry over after a powerful maul cleared some bodies. Madigan added the conversion.
Romania continued to fight until the bitter end with the Irish conceding a late try to lock Ovidiu Tonita, who forced his way past Madigan and Jackson to cross the line in the 77th minute.
Despite Romania’s heavy defeat, there was a lasting memory for the squad to cherish. Scrum-half Florin Surugiu proposed to his girlfriend Alexandria pitchside, and she said yes!
MOTM: Keith Earls
How the Ulstermen rated:
Chris Henry – Ireland’s most effective performer at the breakdown, applying his usual no nonsense approach to slow Romanian ball down. Contributed to the side’s activity going forward with 14 carries and gave a strong defensive display with 11 tackles. (8/10)
Tommy Bowe – Recovered from a dismal performance against England in the warm-up series to score two well taken tries. Proved his finishing ability is still top draw and managed the game well with some solid kicks out of hand. (7/10)
Darren Cave – Showed his ability to play both positions in the centre should not be underestimated. Worked hard at 12 and was the attacking threat in the back-line once moved to his more familiar position of 13. Unlucky to not have reached the line with a terrific break into the heart of the Romanian 22. (8/10)
Jared Payne – A quiet day for Payne’s second start of the tournament. The centre was solid in defence but his kicking from hand was, at times, woeful. (6/10)
Paddy Jackson – Slotted into the Irish back-line and fly-half position effectively. Commanded the game and was a contributing factor to Bowe’s second score. (6/10)