Romania scored 17 points in the final 28 minutes as their powerful pack overcame Canada 17-15 in the biggest comeback in Rugby World Cup history today.
Gordon McRorie’s penalty and a DTH van der Merwe try put Canada 8-0 in front at half-time. The lead became 15-0 as Jeff Hassler bounced his way out of some tame tackling to touch down.
But number eight Mihai Macovei went over for two late tries and Florin Vlaicu’s penalty won it for Romania.
It is the first time Canada have lost all four of their group matches at a World Cup, while Romania can still finish third in the Pool –– securing automatic qualification for the 2019 Rugby World Cup –– if they beat Italy on Sunday.
A Canada victory seemed on the cards after a one-sided first half. Van der Merwe became the first player from a tier-two nation to score a try in four successive World Cup matches, with his effort coming after scores against Ireland, France and Italy.
The 29-year-old showed the one moment of clinical finishing in an opening period that saw numerous promising situations.
Van der Merwe is set to join Scarlets from Glasgow at the end of this tournament and the Welsh side will no doubt have been impressed by his powerful running and ability.
When Hassler took full advantage of some weak defending to touch down for a converted try after the interval, Canada were in full control at 15-0 up.
Romania’s predictable battering-ram approach up front was making very little impact against a resolute wall of red.
Countless times the Canadians saw off several phases of play and the lack of progress and defensive pressure resulted in an inevitable Romania handling error as they tried to play the ball out wide in slippery conditions.
Finally Romania seemed to twig, keeping the ball within yards of their huge pack and driving forward from close quarters, with their captain Macovei the inspiration.
He went over for his first try to set Canada nerves jangling and, after Jebb Sinclair was sin-binned for bringing down a rolling maul, his second close-range score made it 15-12.
Vlaicu added the extras and then slotted a nerveless late penalty in a game that saw both sides miss several kicks at goal.
Meanwhie, Fiji ended an encouraging World Cup campaign with a seven-try 47-15 win over Pool A minnows Uruguay in Milton Keynes.
Nemia Kenatale and Leone Nakarawa, plus two penalty tries, helped the Pacific Islanders lead 26-10 at half-time, earning a bonus point before the break.
Uruguay had not scored a World Cup try since 2003, but Carlos Arboleya and Agustin Ormaechea crossed in each half.
Fiji eased away in the final quarter with three more tries, as Uruguay were reduced to 14 men as Ormaechea saw red.
Uruguay now travel to Manchester for their final pool match on Saturday against hosts England, who have also already been eliminated from the tournament.