A below-par second-half performance saw Eddie O'Sullivan's Ireland run out flattering 39-8 winners over Eastern European challengers Romania at Thomond Park this afternoon. Leading comfortably by 32-3 at the interval thanks to tries from John Hayes, Keith Gleeson, Girvan Dempsey and Brian O'Driscoll, the home side could only add another try from Rob Henderson as the visitors matched their hosts despite using their full quota in the second-half.
Ireland got off to a hesitant start in their first international of the season as their inexperienced opponents drove forward with enthusiasm and conviction, but Hayes calmed any early nerves with just six minutes gone when he drove over, although Ronan O'Gara failed to convert. Despite dominating the early exchanges Ireland continued to look rusty until O'Gara found his range with a 15th-minute penalty. His excellent kick to touch following the re-start put Ireland on the front foot again and when Bath centre Kevin Maggs battered through the Romanian line, Gleeson was on his shoulder to take the ball over from 20 yards out.
O'Gara converted and quickly followed it up with a long-range penalty to open a 18-0 advantage after 21 minutes, but the Munster man was replaced by Ulster's David Humphreys four minutes later in a blood substitution after receiving a cut to his head. Humphreys' impact was immediate as he sent Dempsey racing down the right, and despite being brought down on the line by a high tackle, Italian referee Guilio de Santis awarded a penalty try which Humphreys converted.
The Romanians opened their account on the half-hour when fly-half Ionut Tofan sent over a penalty. O'Gara returned with his forehead heavily bandaged in the 35th minute and he set Maggs up with a clever lay-off, who in turn passed to midfield partner O'Driscoll to score the fourth try of the first half, which O'Gara converted to give Ireland a 32-3 interval lead.
Ireland started the second half without O'Driscoll who had limped out in first-half stoppage time to be replaced by Henderson. Instead of slotting into the midfield, Henderson started on the right wing with John Kelly moving inside, while Romania, managed by Frenchman Bernard Charreyre, started with a new hooker, Petrisor Toderasc, and a fresh lock in Augustin Petrichei. But it was in the back division where the visitors looked rejuvenated and five minutes after the restart Pau centre Valentin Mastei ghosted between Denis Hickie and Dempsey to score a deserved try.
The conversion was missed and Ireland stretched their lead once again in the 54th minute when Henderson, despite looking well offside, raced down the right flank to score in the corner for a try converted by O'Gara as the Irish took a 39-8 lead. That was how it finished but with a potentially difficult trip to Siberia in two weeks' time, O'Sullivan will be looking for significant improvements in many departments if they are not to fall to the Russians.
Ireland: Dempsey, Kelly, B O'Driscoll, Maggs, Hickie, O'Gara, Stringer, Corrigan, S. Byrne, Hayes, Longwell, O'Kelly, S Easterby, Gleeson, Foley.
Replacements: Shields, P. Wallace, Cullen, V. Costello, G Easterby, Humphreys, Henderson.
Romania: Brezoianu, Sauan, Aftea, Gontineac, Vioreanu, Tofan, Sirbu, M Dumitru, Mavrodin, Tincu, M Dragomir, Petre, Chiriac, Manta, Petrache.
Replacements: Toderasc, Tudosa, Petrichei, Podea, Vusec, Picoiu.
Filed by Shane Murray