LEICESTER: Romania pulled off a remarkable second-half comeback to beat Canada 17-15 and record their first win of the World Cup at Leicester City Stadium.
Canada looked on course for victory at Leicester City Stadium when they led 15-0 thanks to tries from DTH van der Merwe and Jeff Hassler, but Romania came roaring back, as two scores from captain Mihai Macovei reduced the gap to one before Florin Vlaicu kicked a match-winning penalty three minutes from time
It means Canada have lost all four of their group matches for the first time at the World Cup while Romania can still finish third if they beat Italy on Sunday to secure automatic qualification for 2019.
Canada made a pulsating start and thought they had a try within two minutes when scrum-half Gordon McRorie darted round the blind side to dive over the line but referee Wayne Barnes brought play back, penalising Nick Blevins for a neck roll.
Romania cleared their lines and attacked almost immediately, with centre Paula Kinikinilau making a surging run down the left but his pass inside was cut out and Canada were spared.
Two penalties gave Canada the chance to break the deadlock and while McRorie missed his first attempt at the posts, he slotted the second after Romania’s Valentin Poparlan strayed offside.
After a shaky start, Romania found a foothold but Florin Vlaicu missed a long-range penalty before full-back Catalin Fercu was shown a yellow card in the 20th minute for what appeared a fairly innocuous collision with Blevins in the air.
Down to 14, Romania resisted for a while but with 33 minutes played, Canada finally struck as an excellent pick-up and offload from McRorie began the break and before Romania could reorganise, play spread left and Van der Merwe cruised over for his sixth try in five matches.
McRorie missed the kick from out wide and he was not alone in struggling from the tee, as Vlaicu fell short with another long-range penalty shortly before half-time.
It proved costly as less than four minutes after the restart, Hassler bulldozed his way past three Romanian defenders to slide over for his fourth international try and Nathan Hirayama, taking over kicking duties, added the extras to give Canada a 15-0 lead.
Romania looked down and out but enjoyed their best spell after the try and in the 53rd minute managed a score of their own as a well-executed line-out set up a drive over the line, with captain Macovei touching down.
Vlaicu converted to reduce the gap to eight before Canada’s Hirayama missed a penalty and Romania set about piling the pressure on their opponents’ line again.
Valentin Ursache thought he was in when he scooped up a loose ball, but referee Barnes brought play back for a knock-on, and then James Pritchard went close after charging down Hirayama’s kick, but he too failed to gather cleanly.
Canada’s task grew tougher when Jebb Sinclair was sin-binned for coming in the side of a ruck and with a man less, their resistance finally crumbled, as Macovei leapt over to set up a dramatic finish.
Vlaicu converted to make it 15-14 and, with just three minutes remaining, another scrum penalty gave Vlaicu the chance to put his side ahead.
The inside centre held his nerve, drilling the ball home from 40 yards, prompting an explosion of yellow in the crowd and the loudest roar of the match.
There was no time left for a dejected Canada to respond as Romanian players poured onto the pitch at full-time to celebrate a superb victory.