RWC23: Scotland v Romania: big win tees up D-day in Paris next Saturday

Darcy Graham scores four of his team's 12 unanswered tries as focus turns to Ireland showdown

Darcy Graham scored four tries for Scotland against Romania. Image: © Craig Watson -
Darcy Graham scored four tries for Scotland against Romania. Image: © Craig Watson -

Scotland 84

Romania 0

DAVID BARNES @ Stade Pierre-Mauroy

FOCUS can now turn fully towards next Saturday’s date with destiny against Ireland in Paris, and Gregor Townsend’s squad will make that journey to the French capital – via a four-night stop-off back at their training camp in Valbonne near Nice – with a spring in their step, having swept past this final (minor) hurdle with minimum fuss and a fair bit of panache shown.

In the end, it was a bit like shooting fish in a barrel, but Scotland still had to get the job done, and the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any new injury concerns to any of the players likely to feature against Ireland will be a big relief.

Darcy Graham scored four tries to take his international total to 24, drawing level with Tony Stanger and Ian Smith in second place in Scotland’s all-time try scoring table, three behind current record holder Stuart Hogg. Another record also came into view towards the end of this match, but Scotland fell five tantalising points short of breaking their 28-year World Cup high score record (89-0 against Ivory Coast at the 1995 World Cup).

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Scotland dominated from the start, but some inaccuracies early on – which included a scrappy line-out, a couple of forced passes which didn’t come off and a missed penalty to the corner – meant that they didn’t make it count on the scoreboard until the eighth minute.

When that opening score came, it was a beauty, with Cam Redpath showing strength and great footwork to bounce a tackle and turn stationary ball into an attacking opportunity. When the centre was finally closed down, his excellent offload out of contact found Hamish Watson, who rolled back the years as he scampered home.

Watson was, of course, one of the first names on the Scotland team-sheet during the first five years of Townsend’s tenure as head coach, but a combination of injury, the march of time and the emergence of Rory Darge has turned him into a fringe character during this World Cup. But the man is a born competitor and was always going to treat this first appearance of the campaign as a golden opportunity to stake his claim for the big one against Ireland in Paris next weekend. He will be annoyed at missing a tackle on the powerful Jason Tomane midway through the first half but ran some great support lines and bounced tackles like he did in his heyday.

Try number two came on 16 minutes, when a set-play from a line-out saw Ben Healy loop round Redpath then send Darcy Graham into space. The winger made good ground before feeding sending Ali Price, running a classic scrum-half support line, under the posts.

Price, of course, is another former stalwart – one of four British and Irish Lion who has dropped down the pecking order during the last year and a bit – looking to push their way back into the first-choice starting XV. Townsend was getting exactly the reaction he would have been hoping for.

Having made one try, Graham secured the first of his four scores five minutes later, with Price returning the favour by breaking right then popping back inside to send the winger on a 50-metre sprint to the line.

It looked for all the world like Ollie Smith was going in for the bonus point try just before the half hour mark when he hit a great line off Price’s flat pass, but the full-back couldn’t quite gather, and Romania showed their pluck by countering off the loose ball from behind their own line, getting as far as halfway.

Romania lost hooker Robert Irimescu to the sin-bin for a high hit on Healy and blindside flanker Florian Rosu for collapsing the maul on 30 and 32 minutes, respectively, and in between times the TMO ruled that Jamie Bhatti had been stopped short of the try-line.

It took Scotland a while to capitalise on the two-man advantage – not helped by conceding a scrum penalty for collapsing five yards from the Romania line – before a long passage of continuity play eventually saw Graham streaking home for his second.

Next on the scoresheet was Matt Fagerson, bustling over from close range after Smith recycled despite being clobbered with a high hit by opposite number Marius Simionescu, which saw the Romanian full-back become the third member of his team to be sent to the sin-bin inside 10 minutes.

Romania desperately needed the half-time whistle, but they were told they had to restart by referee Wayne Barnes, and Scotland wasted no time in piling further misery onto their bedraggled opponents, with Chris Harris breaking from his own 22 to past halfway straight from kick-off, then feeding Price on his inside, who quickly sent the ball back the way it had come to set up Graham’s hat-trick, making it 42-0 at the break.


Try number eight came after just four minutes of the second half, when Healy sent over a fine cross-kick to Redpath, who held off the tackle and then sent Harris over on the left.

Bhatti had a try-scoring opportunity disallowed by the TMO for a second time in the match, this time he lost the ball forward in the act of ground.

Graham clearly had a taste for it, but he was penalised once after getting isolated as he scrambled for the line and he was nudged into touch a short while later as he tried to wriggle over in the corner.

Instead, it was Smith who was next in on the act, scoring off a long weaving run, then Graham showed that he didn’t have white-line fever by skipping through a couple of passes and feeding Healy, who still had the last man to beat before  scoring his first international try under the posts just short of the hour mark.

To their credit, Romania roused themselves and managed to battle their way to the Scottish line, and Johnny Matthews – off the bench for his international debut – did well to get himself between the ball and the in-goal area turf. The losing team huffed and puffed inside the Scotland 22 for a few minutes more, but that was as close as they got.

Given his astonishing try-scoring record everywhere he has played whilst battling from lower league club rugby in England to the international stage during the last five or six years, it was almost inevitable that Matthews would mark his bow on the big stage with a try – and he did it style, swan-diving under the posts at the end of sweeping attack featuring Graham and George Horne.

Matthews fed fellow replacement Darge for try number 11, and Horne clipped over the quick drop-goal conversion as the Scots zoned in on that 89-0 scoreline, and when Graham went in under the sticks with three minutes still to play they got to just five points away – but time ran out.


Teams –

Scotland: O Smith ( B Kinghorn 58); D Graham, C Harris (H Jones 63), C Redpath, K Steyn; B Healy, A Price (G Horne 54); J Bhatti (R Sutherland 58), E Ashman (J Matthews 58), J Sebastian (W Nel 58), S Skinner, G Gilchrist (S Cummings 58), L Crosbie, H Watson (R Darge 63), M Fagerson.

Romania: M Simionescu; S Lama, J Tomane, F Tangimana (N Onutu 56), T Sikuea; A Conache (T Boldor 52), G Rupanu (F Bardasu 34-38, F Surugiu 61); A Savin (I Hartig 50), R Irimescu (C Burtila 56), G Gajion, A Motoc, ( M Iftimiciuc, 61) S Iancu; F Rosu, D Ser, C Chirica (D Stratila 61).

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)


Scorers –

Scotland: Tries: Watson, Price, Graham 4, Fagerson, Harris, Smith, Healy, Matthews, Darge; Con: Healy 11, Horne.

Romania: No scorers


Yellow card –

Romania: Irimescu (30mins), Rosu (32mins), Simionescu (39mins)

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About David Barnes 4026 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. Despite being 4 weeks in, this tournament is spluttering like a damp firework with too many mismatches and embarrassing scorelines for a sport that has failed to grow the game internationally. A very small number of close matches with top level rugby and both teams being competitive. The long gaps between matches, while understandable for player welfare add to the disjointed feel. Perhaps once the knock out stages start then the quality will rise.
    I hope that future tournaments reduce group sizes from 5 to 4, and as been suggested by others include a playoff so that teams play others of a similar standard.

  2. What to draw from that game, certainly was a ruthless performance, all most All Black level’s of weaker opponent crushing from Scotland.
    Good 1st half from Watson , Harris and Redpath worked well together, Healy was good and gave a kicking master class, Horne put in another good turn, think Graham put in the stronger claim to start on the wing, Mathews put in a shift with a try and great assist, not sure Ashman brought as much to the party.
    Where does this leave our selections for Ireland not sure, but we need to keep the Irish out of Finns face to stand any chance.
    Final thought, a word of praise for Romania they never stopped trying right up till the 82 minute, the players apologized and shook the Scottish players hand after any foul as they left the pitch and even apologized to the ref, to me they emerged with honour from the encounter.

  3. Apropos nothing in particular..can someone enlighten me regarding yellow cards. My question is….are yellow cards given for foul play sent to the bunker for review
    by default?
    Can’t the TMO call the shots or heaven forbid the Ref!
    I might be wrong but I’m not aware of any straight red cards being given since the institution of the bunker system.
    I probably am wrong but happy to be educated by my fellow armchair warriors!

    • I certainly haven’t seen a straight red since the bunker system has been in operation but I don’t have a problem with that. It gives an opportunity for the ref’s decision to be properly double-checked and in theory should eliminate any mistakes made.

      Of course that relies on the bunker system operating properly and as Jurgen Klopp discovered yesterday TV officials sometimes get it spectacularly wrong!

    • I think the default is hand out the Yellow with your arms crossed and pass the responsibility on, as ever World Rugby offering up a directive without considering they are taking authority away from the match day officials in charge of the game on the field.

  4. Not sure what you can take from a game against a tier 2 nation that everyone else has thumped (not good for Rugby – like the 7s type suggestion). The Irish will play totally differently. They play like SA used to, very, very boring squeezing the life out of everyone at least SA now have an exciting back-line. We can’t cope well with a rush defence and our lineout has looked questionable all tournament (my impression, trying to find stats to back this up) . To lose lineouts and scrums against Romania is worrying. Sadly I think Ireland will beat us but really, really hope they don’t. For Ireland to win the tournament would be an awful put off, for anyone new wanting to start playing, or watching. The last RWC final was an awful, totally lacking in spectacle this one could be as bad. The final has to be great its our one opportunity every 4 years to bring Rugby to a World audience.

    • ‘Bring Rugby to a World Audience’!
      I’d just like World Rugby to bring the game to the players and ex players rather than tinkering with the laws every 5 minutes in an attempt to make an entertainment spectacle out of a Sport that was once for all shapes and sizes and abilities AND you played 80 minutes. As ever etc…

  5. There is the assumption that DVDM is a nailed on starter- really? Steyn for me, is a better defender, tackler and comfortable under the high ball – and has a nose for the try line.
    Would have the same back 3 as last night

    • Fair point imo. We’ve shipped a few tries over the past year when VDM isn’t defending wide enough.

  6. I think it would be insane to not start with DG and VDW, two of our biggest try-scorers. The latter’s defence has improved greatly in the last 12 months. Price in my view has edged White out of the 23, but Horne should still start. That reverse pass to start the move and then finishing it with the pass to DG for his try? And did anyone notice who flipped the ball to DG for his try from 10 metres out? Smith didn’t convince so reluctantly Kinghorn should start at fullback with maybe Steyn on the bench in case his defence his worse than usual. I still think 2nd 5/8 is the place for Kinghorn.

  7. Scotland need to spring a surprise or two in the starting lineup against Ireland. I don’t believe we have the x-factor in enough players apart from Dancing Darcy to worry Ireland. Something will have to surprise them, get them on the back foot quickly, ruin their defence, expose them, stress them, but how, with whom? Finn Russell I don’t believe will have the time nor space to do anything unless we get decent ruck ball to give him space, and that’s our Achilles heal, we were feeding him the odd scrap against SA, which is not gonna do it against Ireland, we’ll be snuffed out, so start Watson, he’s frothing at the mouth to get stuck in, and well capable over 50 mins to do some damage and win decent ball, with the odd turnover.

    Controversial maybe, but break up what has become a predictable centre partnership, introduce Redpath from the start, it’s too late if we’re chasing the game, and that’s the nub here, if we have to chase the game we’ve lost it, so worry them from the get go if that’s possible, that said SA tried it and failed?

    Geez, it’s gonna be difficult, but I thought Healey had a superb game, yes the odd mistake, but Finn makes plenty in a game, and his goal kicking, penalties come to mind, was superb, he controlled well, hmm maybe like Sexton, not dramatic, not flashy, but super efficient, hmm spring a surprise, just saying :)

  8. Well for once I can’t disagree with all previous comments. We lacked composure in the red zone at times otherwise 100 could have been on the cards.
    The point of difference between Watson and Darge is Watsons carrying. We have struggled to truck ball up in the forwards against bigger teams yet he always makes yards. I’d have him on even for 40.
    Healy fronted up and showed he can play flat as well as kick, should be a better back up 10 than BK.
    Redpath is such a classy player, it’s a toss up between him or Tui.
    Sebastian to Replace Nel on the bench
    White has not been at his best , Price stepped up last night. Price with Horne on bench for me at 9.

    • When has White ever been at his best? For the life of me, trawling through Youtube footage I cannot find anything brilliant to justify his meteoric rise. On what was his selection based?

  9. Mmm, not totally convinced by what looks like a convincing score line. Our scrums looked shaky, as did our line out at times and lots of handling errors and a few kicks missing touch. We could have got 100+ points this evening and play like that vs Ireland and we’ll be the ones sent home again to ponder. Yes, a number of top players left out tonight but our accuracy really let us down at times. Thank God for Graham, that guy is awesome and defends well too. Our pack has to front up next Saturday and be far more convincing at the breakdown. Still, will take the points and just hope for a outstanding performance next weekend.

  10. Good win with predominantly the ‘fringe’ players..left about 5 or 6 tries out there. Good defense near the end to hold Romania to 0points.. they’ll need that against Ireland no doubt. Several players put their hands up.

    For me no one of the back row really stood out enough to replace Dempsey, Darge, Ritchie…Fagerson best of bunch for lasting the 80 mins..Watson was very good for the opening 15-20 mins showed good hands but was just decent for the rest of his time and just doesnt have the legs for a 80 min game and can only play 7. Darge can play test level 80 at 6 or 7. Crosbie did nothing remarkable yet again in a Scotland shirt.
    To me Mathews is a better hooker than Ashman at the moment…Id have him in the 23. Got stuck in and looked a threat in attack solid lineout throwing.
    Sebastian looks better than Nel…Nel looks done to me..he hasn’t impressed at all with the minutes he has had. Sebastian offers more in attack I thought. Id have Sebastian in the 23.
    Bhatti had a ‘mare game. Sutherland probably should be ahead of him.
    2nd row Gray..+ Cummings or Gilchrist
    Graham looked electric….but let’s see against one of the toughest defenses out there.
    Redpath looked great and really stood out for me…creative, pacy, great hands…and didn’t shirk tackles and getting stuck have him in the 23.
    Healy, I thought was excellent for his first RWC start. GT will have to think hard about the kicking option he offers considering every single point will matter. His passing impressed me …a couple of dropsies .but overall looked the part of a top class 10 in the making.
    Reluctantly id say Price put his case forward too.

    In short…players Id have in the 23 that often aren’t… Smith, Healy, Redpath, Horne, Sebastian, Sutherland….out of them I think Redpath put his hand up to actually start. Anyhoo..just imo

  11. World rugby needs to address this type of game as it does no favours for the tier 2 countries. Roumania have been thumped 3 times as have other teams. There should be another competition within the world cup after the pool stage for those who are knocked out such as the sevens do. Third and 4th placed teams in each pool then play in another tournament just like the 1st and second in each group.

    • Alan – absolutely spot on. Would be great to see the likes of Uruguay and Georgia getting more competitive game time against each other, and would flesh out the latter stages where there’s only a couple of games per week.

  12. Just back from the game and you can’t grumble with 84 points. A lot of good performances across the team but strangely we left 3 or 4 tries out on the pitch with some innacuracy when we got in the last 5m. Darcy was superb along with Harris in the backs. Healy had a few errors early on but improved and his kicking off the tee was superb. In the forwards I though Fagerson, Watson. Skinner and Sebastian were good.

    Not sure what it tells us about our chances against Ireland but its good for confidence and I didn’t actually think we would put 80 past Romania. Probably doesnt change much for the Ireland selection – only reserve scrum half, Watson and wing up for debate.

  13. A superb victory, did what needed to be done ie a huge win to get a good points difference. A good few of them must now be in contention for a place next week, Watson, Harris, Redpath and Skinner. Safe to say Darcy Graham will start, what a game he had and now equal with Smith and Stanger on the scoring charts.

    All in all a good night’s work and exactly what was needed to get the confidence up for next week

  14. Has it thrown up some questions of selection, the Pundits on the Box all posing the question whether Graham or Steyn start, however perhaps VdM could be the ‘X’ factor from the Bench? Just asking.
    Healy had a shaky start but improved and he did get the extra 2 even on the more difficult conversions. Did Hamish show enough to start, will Harris be as effective against Ireland, this is where being an ‘Armchair’ Pundit is so much easier than the position Townsend is in.
    I thought Redpath showed well, in fact it would be harsh to criticise anyone especially as there was an obvious attitude to put Romania to the Sword, but to their credit Romania continued to make every effort. Just one thought did we really play second fiddle in the scrum to Romania? If we found that difficult goodness help us against Ireland.
    However the fact remains in everyone’s eyes Ireland are home and dry along with SA which leaves Scotland in the position of the Under-dog, a position that the past tells us is our favoured one, but it will need to be our best performance from the first whistle to the last.

    • Yes, of all the commentary I’ve seen- Ireland are already in the QF. Outside their camp of course. The way I see it, over 10 games we’d win 2 or 3 which may seem defeatist but given previous encounters, realistic.

  15. Must have been Harris’ best performance as an attacking player – handling, distribution etc.
    OK, many will say that it was’only Romania’ but he will on the radar for next week.
    Redpath impressed as always but a bit lightweight for next week?

  16. Great win, a few of the “big” boys put their hands up. Graham, Redpath, Steyn, Watson, all who can bring something different to the party. Redpath to start?? Roll on Saturday and we’ll see! Can’t wait 😊🐻

    • It doesn’t happen often but I agree with you that of all the players on show I thought Redpath stood out. I don’t think Tuipolotu is playing to the standards he set last year but I would be surprised if Townsend dropped him. One other worrying aspect even against Romania we still lack composure when attacking from 5m out in the forwards.We are simply not as clinical as other teams.

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