Sluggish Italy stumble past Romania

Italy rebounded from their All Black mauling to record a morale-boosting, if incredibly dour, 24-18 win over Romania in a Rugby World Cup Pool C game at the Stade Velodrome in Marseilles on Wednesday.

In a game that was certainly no advert for free-flowing rugby, the forwards battled out a war of attrition interrupted by a veritable comedy of schoolboy handling errors and fouls that ruined the match as a spectacle.

Italy scored through Santiago Dellape and a penalty try, with a further 14 points coming from the boots of David Bortolussi and Ramiro Pez, while Romania responded with two tries from flanker Alexandru Manta and hooker Marius Tincu.

Romanian fullback Iulian Dumitras, whose long-range punting was nothing less than spectacular, missed four of his five kicks while Ionut Dimofte scored two late penalties.

Italy opened the scoring in the seventh minute, Pez gathering up the ball after a dreadful fumble by Romanian scrumhalf Lucan Sirbu in his own 22m area, and the Argentina-born outside-half slipped a pass to lock Dellape, who crashed over in the corner.

Bortolussi missed the conversion but made amends with a penalty five minutes later after the Romanians infringed at a ruck.

With Italy attempting to turn the screw, it was left to the impressive outside-half Dimofte to put in a great try-scoring tackle on Mirco Bergamasco just metres from the line.

The Azzurri, whose backs were desperately bereft of any attacking ideas, could not turn pressure into points.

Knock-on followed knock-on, and the half-time whistle could not come quickly enough with Italy 8-0 up.

The Romanian pack got the second-half off to a better start, rolling a maul 15m before openside flanker Alexandru Manta crashed over.

Dumitras missed the conversion and his third penalty just minutes later.

But the Golden Oaks, who beat Italy in their last encounter 25-24 in Bucharest in June 2006, came straight back at an Italian side completely in disarray.

An innocuous chip by Dimotfe caught Bortolussi at sixes and sevens, Dumitras recovered the loose ball and from the resulting ruck, hooker Marius Tincu palmed aside Mirco Bergamasco with ease to cross for a well-served try.

Manta was then yellow carded for collapsing a maul, and a succession of penalties against Romania close to their line left English referee Tony Spreadbury with no option but to award a penalty try.

Pez made no mistake with the conversion and in the following 10 minutes landed three quick penalties while Dimofte kicked two for Romania to round off a dire game.—Sapa-AFP

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