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PACK STAR IN ROMANIAN MISMATCH

Timisoara Saracens:17 (10) Edinburgh Rugby: 59 (45)



There was a point in the 80s when it seemed as if Romania was going to emerge as a European rugby power. To take one example, newly crowned Grand Slam champions, Scotland, were defeated in Bucharest in May 1984, just a few weeks after that rare triumph.  Although the Romanians have beaten the Scots once more, that was back in 1991, and they have since been overtaken by the likes of Italy and Georgia in European rugby. One advantage that Romanian rugby had back in the day, namely quasi-professionalism through their army and rugby teams, is no more.

Yet rugby in Romania has a long heritage, having been heavily influenced by French rugby from the outset. The IRB/World Rugby has been rightly funding Tier 2 nations to support the development of the sport and one hopes that rugby in Romania will regain the momentum it has lost.  One step in the right direction is to give Romanian clubs the oppportunity to test themselves in cross-border competitions.

But facing fully professional outfits from Tier 1 nations is always going to be a huge challenge and there will be mismatches, at least in the early years.  There was one such encounter when Edinburgh Rugby visited the Dan Paltinisanu Stadium in Timisoara this afternoon.

Prior to the match, one had wondered whether the Embramen might have faced a stiff challenge up front, notably in the set piece.  This was based on no knowledge of Saracens' capabilities whatsoever and, instead, drew on vague memories of the forward strength of Romanian sides in the 80s.  In fact, those concerns proved unfounded and it was the Edinburgh pack that won this one.

The Gunners had secured the try bonus on 24 minutes, when Stuart 'Rambo' McInally crossed for the second of what was to be a first half hat-trick for the Future Scotland Captain. Try machine Mike Allen and debutant Viliame 'Bill' Mata on the flank had already crossed within the first five minutes.

Nasi Manu notched a brace before the break, a flurry of conversions by Jason 'Stovies' Tovey leaving the half time score 45-10 to the visitors.  Timisoara had also crossed, through their left wing Stephen Shennan, after half back Calafeteanu had got them on the board with a penalty on eight minutes. But the game was long since over as a contest, the only question being how many the Embramen would put on in the second period.

Mata notched his second on 49 minutes and Manu his own hat-trick just after the hour.  But there was a sense that Saracens' defence had tightened up, while the visitors' foot had come off the gas, and that was the end of the scoring for the Gunners.  To their credit, Saracens kept plugging away and were rewarded with Shennan's second try of the afternoon on 75 minutes, a good conversion by Calafeteanu seeing the final score 17-59 in favour of the visitors.

Could, should Edinburgh have been more ruthless in the second period?  While it's some way down the list, aggregate points difference in the pool is a factor that may come into play in deciding qualification from this group, all else being equal as may, I think, tries scored.  So while bonus points are important, it is not impossible that the margin of victory secured over the Saracens may eventually decide who qualifies.  Nice to score 59 points away from home, but that may just be par for the course.

It looks unlikely that Stade and Harlequins will do anything other than secure 10 points from their meetings with the Romanians, so more of the same - at least - at Murrayfield will be required in the return fixture.