SA Kings battle past Romania
June 15, 2011
Georgia's Vasil Kakovin takes the attack to the Argentina Jaguars in Bucharest © IRB
The South African Kings hit the top spot in this year's IRB Nations Cup with a 27-23 victory over hosts Romania at Bucharest's Arcul de Triumf Stadium.
The Kings, who accounted for Georgia in their opening fixture, were made to work by the Rugby World Cup-bound Oaks who broke the deadlock with a penalty from fly-half Dan Dumbrava after just two minutes. But he soon saw his score cancelled out by Kings playmaker Louis Strydom who would have a large say in the course of the contest. Back came Romania with the first try of the game from loose-head prop Mihaita Lazar but the Kings wrestled back control of the game thanks to a try of their own from winger Siyanda Grey. Strydom added the extras and another penalty before the break gave the Kings a 16-14 advantage as they headed to the tunnel.
Strydom bagged a try at the start of the second half to cement his side's lead but the determined home side closed the gap once more thanks to Dumbrava's fourth penalty. Another penalty from Strydom and a drop goal from fullback Mzwandile Stick edged the Kings nearer victory and two late penalties from replacement scrum-half Valentin Calafeteanu were not enough to swing the game Romania's way.
"Romania played remarkably well. They have a lot of very good players in their team and gave us a very hard match," said Kings No.8 Luke Watson after the game. "Our boys showed a lot of guts to win this tough encounter and it is particularly rewarding to win tight matches like these against the home nation. It is really exciting to play and win against such good side like Romania on their home turf."
Georgia kicked of the second round of matches with a narrow 14-13 victory over the Argentina Jaguars. The Lelos, who were beaten by the South African Kings in their opening clash, took a narrow 8-6 lead into the break thanks to a try from winger Lexo Gugava and a penalty from fullback Beka Urjukashvili. Two penalties from No.10 Benjamín Madero kept the Jaguars in the game but they were soon chasing the game thanks to two second half penalties from. Urjukashvili.
Scrum-half Antonio Ahualli offered the Jaguars hope of a late turnaround with a try but the conversion from replacement Santiago González Iglesias was not enough to prevent the South Americans falling to their second successive defeat following their opening loss to Portugal. "We have achieved what we wanted, that is to see several young players at work, in significant areas for the Rugby World Cup squad, and I am delighted with their work rate. The fact that we won is really a bonus," said Georgia coach Richie Dixon.
Namibia edged out Portugal 29-23 in the other match at the Stadionul National Arcul de Triumf, in a contest played amid torrential rain.
The African side adapted to the conditions the better of the two teams, and through the accurate kicking of fly-half Theuns Kotze were able to turn their possession and field position into points on a regular basis.
Referee Jerome Garces awarded a penalty try to Kotze 16 minutes into the second half, and the talisman duly converted to hand the Namibians a lead they hold for the remainder of the match.
Afterwards, Namibia coach Johaan Diergaardt acknowledged Kotze's valuable contribution.
"It was not a perfect game, but we won playing to our strengths. The presence of Theuns Kotze at number 10 made the difference, I would say. He kept the board ticking over with his kicking, which really made the difference. We missed him badly against Romania, and he showed his quality tonight," he said.
Portugal coach Errol Brian, meanwhile, was forced to admit that his side were unable to cope with the elements and were subsequently unable to build upon their victory over Argentina five days prior.
"We struggled to adapt to the weather and then rushed too much, instead of taking our time," said Brian. "Their kicking game was excellent and we had no reply to it. This is tournament rugby, one day up, one day down."
On the third and final match day Portugal take on the South African Kings, Georgia then take on reigning champions Namibia before hosts Romania play the Argentina Jaguars.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
As Scotland decides its future, Scrum Sevens looks at a group of players who transcended rugby both for country and the British & Irish Lions
Ahead of November's USA-All Blacks match, America's ESPN Magazine explains rugby to its readers who may not be familiar with the game
Tom Hamilton talks to World Cup-winning captain John Smit about life after rugby, his fears over the South African exodus and the World Cup