Georgia beats Romania 25-9 at Rugby World Cup
Updated: September 28, 2011, 05:24
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PALMERSTON NORTH, New Zealand(AP) Georgia brightened its third campaign at a Rugby World Cup with a 25-9 win over Romania on Wednesday, only its second win in 11 matches and one enriched by the long and spirited rivalry between the teams.
In front of the Georgian Prime Minister and a capacity crowd of 14,000, Georgia scored the only try through man-of-the-match, flanker Mamuka Gorgodze. Flyhalf Merab Kvirikashvili landed a conversion and five penalties for 17 points and Malkhaz Urjukashvili added a late penalty.
Marin Dumbrava kicked two penalties and Florin Vlaicu one for Romania.
Both teams cited this as their match of the tournament, the one they not only hoped but desperately wanted to win.
Their rivalry has been as close as it has been fierce, Romania having won eight and Georgia six of their 14 previous matches. Georgia, which faces Argentina in its last pool match on Sunday, has now won five of its last six matches against Romania.
Romania fullback Iulian Dumitras likened the rivalry to the one between France and England while vice-captain Cristian Petre called this "a reference match, the match we have to win, a man's match, of life and death.'' Georgia's only previous win at a World Cup was against Namibia.
"I think as I said yesterday, I had fears that the game might develop into a local derby today, and at times we were so busy trying to win that we forgot to play our game.'' Georgia's Scotland-born coach Richie Dixon said.
"When we did play our game we were obviously very strong and we did get our reward for that. So we'll be looking for a much improved performance from our own team (against Argentina), adhering to how we play the game and obviously we would like to go out on a high.
"We came here to gain the respect of every team that we played. We have showed we're making progress.''
The match which likely decides last place in Pool B - Romania has only once previously finished last in a World Cup pool - might not have been seen as one of the great attractions of this World Cup. As the tournament gears up for its knockout stages, enlivened by a series of must-win matches between teams on the verge of playoffs qualification, the contest between Eastern European rivals might have been a footnote.
But the match galvanized this rural township of 75,000 which last hosted a Rugby World Cup match in 1987. Spectators grabbed every vantage point at the Manawatu Arena, expanded beyond its normal capacity by temporary seating, and a further 12,000 watched the match on large screens in the town's main square.
The Arena serves part-time as the home of the Manawatu provincial rugby team, at other times as a venue for speedway racing: the rugby field surrounded and separated from the grandstands by a narrow dirt racetrack. The Bucketheads, fervent fans who show their support for Manawatu by wearing on their heads plastic buckets painted in the green and white colors of the local team, instead sported buckets in the Georgian and Romanian colors.
There may not have been a deep-seated expectation that the match would rise to heights of spectacle. Both teams have a style of play centered on their powerful forward packs, built around set pieces and often emphasizing pick-and-go rugby at breakdowns.
Instead, the contest held the crowd enthralled through its physical forward play and its occasional, if not always effective, forays from both backlines. There was a good deal of kicking, not always to effect, and the ambition of both sides was often undermined by poor execution: there were eight handling errors and 14 penalties in the first half.
Kvirikashvili managed the Georgian team well in the first half, sending reaching kicks into both corners. Romania chose a more direct approach with kicks through the middle of the field which, too often, it wasn't able to reclaim.
Penalties streamed from breakdowns and while they reduced the game to a staccato tempo, they provided opportunities for flyhalves Kvirikashvili and Dumbrava to demonstrate their goalkicking prowess.
Kvirikashvili kicked four out of four, Dumbrava two out of three as Georgia took a 12-6 lead to halftime.
Romania had heat on the Georgian scrum for much of the match, though it was always able to turn that advantage to any tangible benefit. Georgia, in fact, exerted steady territorial pressure on Romania through the second half.
Gorgodze's try came in the 56th minute at the end of a sustained attacking movement in which Kvirikashvili, always willing to take the ball into contact, handled twice and Gorgodze on three occasions.
Kvirkikashvili and Vlaicu exchanged penalties and Urjukashvili added the last points five minutes from fulltime.
"I want to say to everyone for this night I feel at home,'' said Romania captain Marius Tincu, who played his 50th test. "It's bad because we lost. We worked very hard for this game but we didn't win. That is rugby, that is the game. The best team won.''
Georgia 25 (Mamuka Gorgodze try; Merab Kvirikashvili conversion, 5 penalties; Malkhaz Urjukashvili penalty), Romania 9 (Marin Dumbrava 2 penalties; Florin Vlaicu penalty). HT: 12-6.