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Ireland 82-8 Romania: Johnny Sexton stars on return as Irish romp to victory in Rugby World Cup opener

Johnny Sexton scored two tries and kicked seven conversions as Ireland stormed to a convincing win over Romania in the Pool B opener in Bordeaux; Peter O'Mahony, Bundee Aki and Tadhg Beirne grabbed two tries each as well as Ireland beat their previous highest score at a World Cup

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Highlights from day two of the Rugby World Cup in France where there were opening victories for Italy, Ireland, Australia and England. Credit: RWCL

Johnny Sexton marked his return to action with two tries as Ireland began their Rugby World Cup campaign with a record 82-8 win over Romania in Saturday’s Pool B clash in Bordeaux.

The reigning Six Nations champions were stunned early on as Gabriel Rupanu finished an early counter-attack to put Romania ahead with an unconverted try, but it was pretty much all Ireland from that moment on as they recorded their biggest-ever World Cup win.

Jamison Gibson-Park, Hugo Keenan, Tadhg Beirne, Bundee Aki and the returning Johnny Sexton all crossed as the world's No 1-ranked team wrapped up the try-scoring bonus point before the break, while Romania were not helped by having Marius Simionescu sin-binned.

Sexton, Aki and Beirne all grabbed their second tries after the break, while Peter O'Mahony's second-half double, and singles from Rob Herring and Joe McCarthy saw Ireland surpass the total from their previous World Cup best score in the 64-7 win over Namibia 20 years ago.

Sexton's 24-point haul, meanwhile, saw him move ahead of Ronan O'Gara as Ireland's record point-scorer at World Cups too.

Story of the game

Ireland captain Sexton was back from his lengthy absence to lead his country into his fourth World Cup, while Mack Hansen replaced Robbie Henshaw on the bench in a late change following his surprise initial omission from the matchday 23.

An expectant sea of green flooded the stands of Stade de Bordeaux in sweltering south-west France, but it was Romania who made the blistering start. Sexton's poor grubber kick was pounced upon by Hinckley Vaovasa and he raced forward to give half-back partner Rupanu a simple third-minute finish.

Also See:

Ireland 82-8 Romania score summary

Ireland: Tries - Johnny Sexton (2), Bundee Aki (2), Tadhg Beirne (2), Peter O’Mahony (2), Jamieson Gibson-Park, Hugo Keenan, Rob Herring, Joe McCarthy; Conversions: - Johnny Sexton (7), Jack Crowley (4).

Romania: Try - Gabriel Rupanu; Penalty: - Gabriel Rupanu.

Romania's Gabriel Rupanu scores the opening try during the Rugby World Cup Pool B match between Ireland and Romania at the Stade de Bordeaux in Bordeaux, France, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
Image: Romania's Gabriel Rupanu stunned Ireland with the opening try

Ireland swiftly recovered from the sloppy opening moments to assert their authority, though. Gibson-Park benefited from slick interplay involving Sexton, Aki and Garry Ringrose to dive over before Keenan crossed under the posts and flanker Beirne touched down wide on the left.

Romania scrum-half Rupanu reduced the deficit with a penalty ahead of the first drinks break, but the fourth World Cup meeting between the nations rarely threatened to be truly competitive, epitomised by an early Mexican wave.

Ireland had won all of the past clashes - nine in total - and had the bonus point in the bag in the 34th minute when the rampaging Aki claimed a fine solo score shortly after Romania full-back Marius Simionescu was sin-binned for obstruction.

Sexton got in on the act in the final moments of the half, crossing under the posts before overcoming a bang suffered in the process to slot the extras and make it 33-8 at the interval.

Ireland v Romania - Rugby World Cup 2023 - Pool B - Stade de Bordeaux
Ireland's Tadhg Beirne scores his sides third try during the Rugby World Cup Pool B match at the Stade de Bordeaux. Picture date: Saturday September 9, 2023.
Image: Tadhg Beirne was among those who grabbed two tries for Ireland

Ireland players had spoken all week of wanting to produce a statement opening victory. Undeterred by the stifling conditions, the Six Nations Grand Slam champions stretched their advantage courtesy of hooker Herring and flanker O'Mahony dotting down amid prolonged pressure.

Sexton's 17th Test try added further gloss to the scoreline before a first for 22-year-old lock McCarthy and a second of the afternoon for O'Mahony enhanced Romania's punishment.

Aki, who was sent off against Samoa in his last World Cup outing, and Beirne became the third and fourth men in green to claim a brace.

Replacement No 10 Crowley successfully added the extras from his four conversions as Ireland ruthlessly dispatched the team ranked 19th in the world to stretch their record winning run to 14 matches and satisfy the bulk of the 41,170 crowd.

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Ireland's players were pleased to get their Rugby World Cup campaign up and running with an 82-8 win over Romania, their biggest ever victory at the tournament.

What they said

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell

"Obviously what happened at the start, you've got to dust yourself down and get back on point, which I thought we did pretty quickly," he told ITV.

"First half, we stopped our flow a bit with a lack of discipline and communications on linebreaks. We had a good chat about that at half time, and I thought our flow, our discipline and calmness second half was pretty ruthless.

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Johnny Sexton was pleased to make his first competitive appearance in almost six months as Ireland thrashed Romania in their Rugby World Cup opener, while head coach Andy Farrell was thrilled with their second half showing.

"Putting 80 points on the board, we've got to be happy with that."

In his post-match press conference, Farrell said he was delighted to have Sexton back "firing on all cylinders" but could not resist poking fun at his veteran skipper as he backed him to make more history in the coming weeks.
and Scotland.

"I heard he broke a few records today," said Farrell. "What was the record, Johnny? The oldest player to play at the tournament, that's the first one.

"And what was the other one, points scored? Twenty-four points, puts him nine points behind the record for the most points scored for any Irish player. So you would think if selected that he'd be able to get that record.

"But the most pleasing point for us was definitely 60-odd minutes under the belt and firing on all cylinders and fit and healthy and ready to go for the rest of the competition."

Player of the match Peter O'Mahony:

Ireland's Peter O'Mahony runs to score a try during the Rugby World Cup Pool B match between Ireland and Romania at the Stade de Bordeaux in Bordeaux, France, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
Image: Ireland's Peter O'Mahony was named player of the match in the win over Romania

"It was difficult and credit to Romania. You saw the way they rocked up and within the first two or three minutes put us under the sticks. It was a right wake-up call for us.

"We put some phases together we were happy with, we'll certainly go back and have a look at some of the stuff we left out there... but 80 points in our first one, we'll take that."

What's next?

Ireland head to Nantes for their second game in Pool B when they take on Tonga on Saturday, September 16 (8pm). Romania, meanwhile, face World Cup holders South Africa the following day in Bordeaux (2pm).

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