It was a case of job done for Ireland in north-west London today as they made light work of Romania’s challenge, seeing off their Pool D opponents 44-10 in front of a Rugby World Cup record 89,267 crowd at Wembley.
Joe Schmidt’s team racked up six tries, with Keith Earls (2), Tommy Bowe (2), Rob Kearney, who was later forced off injured, and Chris Henry all crossing the whitewash.
Ian Madigan slotted all of Ireland’s kicked points with an assured display from the out-half.
The Romanians gave their all, but were vastly the inferior side, and rarely threatened Ireland in offence.
They managed a penalty at goal in the early stages through Valentin Calafeteanu and eventually crashed over for a try from lock Ovidiu Tonita late on, which Florin Vlaicu converted.
Ireland were composed throughout and looked a very complete side. Much bigger challenges lie ahead for them in the coming weeks, but the brains trust will be more than than happy with this outing, as they prepare to clash with Italy at the Olympic Stadium next Sunday.
Ireland dominated possession early on as they crossed the field looking for a way to crack open the Romanian defence, but the minnows held firm for the opening ten minutes, with Madigan and Calafeteanu trading penalties to keep the scores level.
Ireland’s first moment of real genius came shortly after, with Earls bursting through the centre, before offloading to Richardt Strauss who in turn fed Simon Zebo out wide, who chipped ahead before rounding Adrian Apostol, to collect the ball before touching down.
It was sensational skill from the Munster man, but the effort was ruled out for a boot in touch as he collected the ball.
As a result, Ireland again looked to the boot of Madigan to push themselves ahead, with another penalty on goal from the No 10 just before the end of the first quarter.
Ireland were beginning to crank up the gears and a sweeping left to right move saw Ulster’s Bowe collect and finish past Ionut Botezatu in the tightest of spaces in the corner.
Madigan curled in from from the left touchline to add the extras.
There was no let up from Ireland as Zebo joined the line at outside centre to whip a pass out to Earls on the left, who burnt two defenders before dotting down over the whitewash.
Madigan failed to add the extra two as he pulled his effort to the left this time.
That was to be the last score of the half as Romania scrambled brilliantly in defence for the last ten minutes, mostly in their own 22, to repel Ireland, and get to the interval to regroup.
The halftime respite didn’t appear to have the required effect on the Romanians though, as Ireland picked up where they left off and pounded the Oaks’ 22.
Within minutes they had a third try. Earls got on the end of a lovely dinked grubber from Eoin Reddan in behind the defence to touch down for his second of the game, becoming Ireland’s joint all-time World Cup top try-scorer alongside Brian O’Driscoll on seven.
Madigan converted to push Ireland well clear at 25-3.
With just over half an hour to go, Schmidt then decided to freshen things up, bringing in Rob Kearney for Earls, with the former slotting in at fullback and Zebo moving to the wing.
Cian Healy’s afternoon fitness session came to end soon after as he made way for his Leinster colleague Jack McGrath; Healy had a relatively quiet afternoon, making one big carry in the loose and performing his loosehead duties according to script.
With no injuries incurred, and 54 minutes of game time under the belt, it was a very satisfactory outing for the Clontarf man.
The third quarter followed a repeated pattern of Ireland putting several phases together, before coughing up the ball in the red zone for Romania to clear, before Ireland surged forward again.
Paddy Jackson was introduced at out-half with 20 minutes left, with Madigan slotting in at 12, Darren Cave moving to second centre, and Payne being called ashore.
In the pack, the two Seans - Cronin and O’Brien - were also introduced for Strauss and Jamie Heaslip, as Schmidt sought to get some more go-forward ball for to claim a fourth try and bag the bonus point.
That strategy worked. Within minutes Ireland had won a scrum deep in the Romania half, spread wide right off first phase and Bowe crossed for his second of the day.
Madigan, looking assured from the boot all day, added the conversion. Csaba Gal’s sin binning, for taking out Jackson in the air moments earlier, helping Ireland to dominate and really put the game to bed.
It was a case of whatever you can do, I can do better, for the wingers, with Earls and Bowe, both on two tries for the day, and both delivering very accomplished performances.
Things were only to get worse for Romania as Kearney claimed the third Rugby World Cup try of his career, as Cave, Madigan and Zebo interchanged wide left before the fullback finished off the intricate move. It was more of the same for Madigan as Ireland moved to a commanding 37-3 scoreline.
Tadhg Furlong, Paul O’Connell and Conor Murray were also introduced in the final quarter as Ireland emptied the bench.
And the Irish pack then got the chance to flex their attacking muscles, with Henry touching down off the back off an Ireland maul from a lineout.
It was just reward for a superb display from the Ulster flanker, who created go-forward ball all day as well as providing key link play at the breakdown. Madigan held on to place-kicking duties, despite Jackson’s prescence on the pitch, and slotted another for 44-3.
But Romania, having huffed and puffed with little joy for the almost entirety of the match, finally got the try that their pack deserved. Off the back of a lineout Tonita got his paws on the ball and smashed through a poor tackle by Jackson to crash over under the sticks. Vlaicu converted to diminish the damage.
Ireland had one more go at the line, but Bowe was penalised for holding on as he opted to go it alone in the 22 rather than using the support outside him.
Five points for Schmidt’s team from this one. Top of the pool after two matches. So far, so good, for the Six Nations champions.
Man of the match: Keith Earls.
Ireland: Simon Zebo, Tommy Bowe, Jared Payne, Darren Cave, Keith Earls, Ian Madigan, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, Richardt Strauss, Nathan White, Donnacha Ryan, Devin Toner, Jordi Murphy, Chris Henry, Jamie Heaslip (captain).
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath, Tadhg Furlong, Paul O’Connell, Sean O’Brien, Conor Murray, Paddy Jackson, Rob Kearney.
Romania: Catalin Fercu, Adrian Apostol, Paula Kinikinilau, Csaba Gal, Ionut Botezatu, Michael Wiring, Valentin Calafeteanu, Andrei Ursache, Andrei Radoi, Paulica Ion, Valentin Poparlan, Ovidiu Tonita, Viorel Lucaci, Mihai Macovei (captain), Daniel Carpo.
Replacements: Mihai Lazar, Otar Turashvili, Alexandru Tarus, Johannes Van Heerden, Stelian Burcea, Florin Surugiu, Florin Ionita, Florin Vlaicu.
Referee: Craig Joubert.