Men’s U18 6Ns Festival: Scotland sign off on a high with win over Italy

Can comeback victory be a precursor to an uplift in the national under-20s team's fortunes

The Scotland squad after defeating Italy in the final game of their 2024 Six Nations U18s Men's Festival at Stadio Lanfranchi in Parma, Italy. Image: Federico Zovadelli/Actionpress
The Scotland squad after defeating Italy in the final game of their 2024 Six Nations U18s Men's Festival at Stadio Lanfranchi in Parma, Italy. Image: Federico Zovadelli/Actionpress

Scotland 20

Italy 17

SCOTLAND left their best to last by defeating the Six Nations U18 Festival hosts, Italy, in a dramatic finish in front of a partisan home crowd at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi in Parma, with a late penalty by replacement scrum-half Hamish MacArthur capping a truly heroic fightback in which the ‘away’ side scored 20 unanswered points after trailing by 0-17 just three minutes before the half-time break. 

The result means that Scotland finish the tournament with two wins from three, their other victory coming against Georgia who sensationally defeated France in the second round and who ran England very close in the final set of matches.

Against Italy, Scotland achieved victory with a classic momentum shift extricating themselves out of a difficult situation against a home side that seemed to have all the answers in the early part of the game. There is little doubt that this swing in fortunes was at least partially driven by bringing on Ollie Blyth-Lafferty just before half-time to provide scrum stability and then back-row Harrison Wood after the break to inject energy and a go-forward presence when both were urgently needed.


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But it was the Merchiston scrum-half MacArthur who made the biggest quantitative impact, scoring 13 second half points from a try, a conversion and two penalties, and providing inspirational and dynamic play that rubbed off on his cohorts.

Scotland head coach, Ross Miller, acknowledged that the use of the bench was crucial, saying: “We needed everyone. It was extremely hot out there today and it was the end of a very exhausting tournament. There was only a four day turnaround between matches. So it was a full squad effort today. Our plan was to rotate players as often as possible”.

He added: “Italy are a very good side. They’ve got some exciting backs who are very influential players and a strong forward pack. But we defended well in large parts of the game. We learnt a lot from the England match in terms game management.

“We worked hard on our maul defence and that certainly came in useful at the end. There are no easy games for the U18s and we can always take a huge amount from each one. But to be on the right side of a result certainly helps.”

Scotland’s victory at the death was an unlikely final outcome at the start of the match as Italy, quick off the mark, forced a penalty in the opening two minutes, converting punishment tariff into points through the boot of stand-off Pietro Celi. Then, when Italy drove a line-out and made repeated surges at the Scotland line, a try seemed inevitable, and in the event it was, as powerhouse centre Nicola Noselli chose a clever line to finish off a try-line siege and score close to the posts, handing Celi an easy conversion kick for a 10-0 lead.

From the restart, Scotland gained possession and looked likely to score when prop Oliver McKenna made an impressive diagonal run to the corner only to be stopped a metre short. The Scots built on this pressure but were eventually held up over the line.

 

 

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Having found their mojo, Scotland continued to play attacking rugby in the Italy 22, testing the home defence to the limit but not breaking it. The Scots had a further chance to break through when they moved the ball in their own 22 area to give wing Elliot Southworth enough room to kick down the left touchline. Sadly, though, the ball bobbled beyond the in-goal line resulting in a scrum back at the genesis point of the kick.

Then, five minutes before half time, Italy struck again, this time scrum-half Lorenzo Ferrar latching on to an uncontrolled line-out ball before scorching in under the posts leaving Celi with a simple conversion.

Happily for Scotland, and indeed the match, the young Scots were able to regain some lost ground before the half ended with an effective driving maul – utilising the strength of replacement front rows Blyth-Lafferty and Lachlan Hodge – before releasing the ball wide for stand-off Henry Armstrong to flat-foot the Italian defence  with a deft side-step that opened up enough room for the Morrison’s Academy half-back to touch down under the posts, giving him a straightforward conversion kick to bring his side back into the game on the stroke of half time.

If the pre-half time minutes had been productive for Scotland then the beginning of the second half was equally crucial in terms of points as MacArthur hit a well struck penalty goal before scoring and converting his side’s second try, set up by full-back Jamie Thomson, who had shredded the Italian defence with a swerving run down the left touchline.

With the scores now level, Scotland, sensing a possible win, worked their way into the Italian 22 and when they were awarded a penalty, MacArthur was equal to the task in front of him to put his side into the lead for the first time in the game.

There was still time for Italy to hit back and it looked as though a driven line-out maul five metres out might do the trick for the home side, only for the Scots to resist the Forza Italiano, winning the maul and the match to conclude an impressive tournament for the dark blues.

 

Teams –

Scotland:  Jamie Thomson; Nairn Moncrieff (Harry Provan 61), Campbell Waugh (Sam Leweni 59), Alex Bryden (Nicky Thompson 59), Elliot Southworth; Henry Armstrong (Ross Wolfenden 51), Ben Curtis (Hamish MacArthur 35); Oliver McKenna (Lachlan Hodge 33), Joe Roberts (William Pearce 61), Mickey Kesson (Ollie Blyth-Lafferty  33), Sam Byrd, Dan Halkon (Rory Purvis 35), Christian Lindsay, Harry Blackie, Harry Stewart (Harrison Wood 35).

Italy: Edoardo Todaro; Malik Faissal, Thomas Del Sureto, Nicola Noselli (Alessandro Dargo 30), Luca Rossi; Pietro Celi (Francesco Agneli 61), Lorenzo Ferrari (Roberto Fasti 63); Christian Brasini (Samuele Venuto  52), Sebastiano Bolzoni (Henry Bonetti  37), Filippo Giagnoni (Giacomo Dolci  48), Marco Spreafichi, Christopher Baas (Simone Fardin 53), Carlo Bianchi (Inza Dene 61), Luigi Nalin, Antony Miranda.

Referee: Robbie Jenkinson (Ire)

Scorers –

Scotland: Tries: Armstrong, MacArthur; Cons: Armstrong, MacArthur; Pen: MacArthur.

Italy: Tries Noselli, Ferrar; Cons: Celi 2; Pen: Celi.

Scoring Sequence (Scotland first): 0-3; 0-8; 0-10; 0-15; 0-17; 5-17; 7-17 (h-t) 3-17; 8-17; 10-17; 15-17; 17-17; 20-17

 

Man-of-the-Match: The arrival on the park of Hamish MacArthur for the second half was crucial for Scotland, with his accurate goal kicking and his support running for his try steering his side to a hugely important victory.

Talking point: What a sensational way to conclude a three round festival.  Scotland have in past years done reasonably well in this competition but this years results were ultra sweet given what Italy achieved against the Scots at under-20 level and what Georgia have done to other countries. Could this be a turning point and the beginning of a return to better times at u20 level?


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About Alan Lorimer 355 Articles
Scotland rugby correspondent for The Times for six years and subsequently contributed to Sunday Times, Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Scotsman, Herald, Scotland on Sunday, Sunday Herald and Reuters. Worked in Radio for BBC. Alan is Scottish rugby journalism's leading voice when it comes to youth and schools rugby.

13 Comments

  1. Just rewatched this game on youtube. Really worth watching if you have not seen it. Great game. If this is the high point for some of these boys in rugby it was a great performance. Hamish McArthurs try from Jamie Thomsons break was a thing of beauty. But lots of promise among a fair few. Hopefully we can rescue something from super series by getting some of these boys (exams permitting) straight in to playing at that level….can only bring them on further.

  2. great result young men and good luck for the future
    ross miller needs to be promoted to under 20s to work with F pringle , murray well past his sell by date

    • why the assumption that moving to 20s is promotion? If Ross Miller has gifts at this level why move him? The more quality coaches there are at younger stages of development the better.

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  3. Very impressive win. They looked far more comfortable in this game and looked hungrier. They seemed to gel more and everyone seemed to play their part. Still scrappy in bits but overall a great game. Blyth Lafferty coming on made a huge impact in the scrum. Great to watch.

  4. Terrific win and well earned. These young players have shown great commitment and energy to achieve these wins. Week in week out of training at least four times a week in gym and on pitch, parents committing to supporting them with travel and food and of course still at school studying for their future. Several will sit final exams in the next couple of weeks.Good luck to them and I hope they all have a bright future and develop their rugby further.

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  5. Fantastic skill, strength and courage. Would be gutted if we had that late pen awarded against us for “side entry” in Maul, that led to our final shot at goal but you earn your luck etc

  6. Brilliant game to watch – well done Scotland.

    I watched the current U20s a couple of years ago, they played pretty well too – also beating Italy if I remember correctly.

    We need to make sure the boys continue to have meaningful, competitive game time for the next two years.

    Well done again, properly delighted for them.

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  7. Think we should let Ross Miller continue with this group into the. u20 and build continuity, he has earned it.

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  8. So heartening to see, not rocket stuff is it front foot stuff, OBL ran the second half It allowed Wood and the excellent MacArthur to turn the game around… as an ex prop so great to see Lafferty in total control ( though the ref could certainly of given him many more decisions) ! Thomson caught the eye aswell… all in all a very good tournament… so nice to see a team allowed ( instructed ) to go for it 🏉👍

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    • I thought that as well at scrum time, he was throwing his opposite number backwards (legally from what I could see) yet got pinged 2-3 times for wheeling the scrum. Not his fault he’s that dominant.

      Joe Roberts and both looseheads looked the business too, hopefully some new front row talent emerging.

  9. Top stuff indeed Well done to all, plenty of talent in there but it’s so much easier when you have at least parity in the front 5. Best of luck to them all.

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