SCOTLAND UNDER-20 … 38
ITALY UNDER-20 … 17
DAVID BARNES @ Broadwood Stadium
THE psychological importance of this victory should not be under-estimated. The young Scots battled hard throughout this Six Nations – and have grown as individual players and as a squad through exposure to high-intensity, high-powered rugby – but they were in danger of walking away with nothing to show for all that courage and effort.
Beating Italy at home is not a reason in itself to hold a victory parade, but it does generate a momentum for this young team which will be crucial as they start to focus in on this summer’s Junior World Cup in Georgia.
The victory was built on a dominant opening 45 minutes which brought four unanswered tries. The Italians battled back in ferocious style, with two red cards for dangerous play giving an indication of the roughhouse tactics they were favouring, and the Scots initially struggled to cope – but they weathered the storm and finished the game in style when Darcy Graham darted home from 20 yards for his second and his team’s fifth touch-down of the evening.
“That’s where we are. It’s a new group – very young, very inexperienced and they’ve worked really hard – so it was great to see them score some tries, but then they just fell away, which is what happens,” said head coach Sean Lineen.
“We kept our discipline for large periods of the game which was fantastic, but then we let it slip a couple of times and they scored. And then we showed our soft side with an easy penalty try and a line-out drive try, and suddenly we needed people stepping up. It was a great learning experience for the players and they deserved to win.”
Scottish forward power created the platform for Graham to scamper over from close range for the opening try in the third minute, and it was a similar story on the half hour mark when Andrew Simmers grabbed try number two after the pack had once again laid the platform.
A Josh Henderson penalty on the stroke of half-time gave the hosts a 17-point advantage, and that was extended to 24 points within a minute of the resumption when Tom Dodd intercepted a lazy pass from Charlye Trussardi and romped home from 45 yards.
It got even better a few minutes later when Matt Fagerson picked up at the base of a ruck five yards from his own line and went the length, but the Scots then took their foot off the gas while Italy upped their aggression levels to grab three tries back through Marco Riccioni, a penalty try and Giovanni d’Onofrio.
Replacement tighthead Daniel Winning was sent to the sin-bin after the penalty try for standing up in the scrum, but on the flip side the Italians picked up two red cards against Lorenzo Masselli, for up-ending Luke Cosbie at a line-out, and Lodovico Manni, for a shoulder-charge at a ruck.
There were several other unsavoury incidents, including two dangerous no-arm tackles from replacement prop Giosue Zilocchi within a matter of minutes, so the Scots deserve credit for generally keeping their nerve and their discipline to weather that storm and then pulling away again when Graham sniffed out a gap and darted home to finish the scoring with just four minutes left on the clock.
“I’m really proud of the guys that in the face of a of of adversity, they kept their composure for large periods. Some of the stuff that was going on wasn’t great,” reflected Lineen, when discussing some of the wilder elements of the Italian performance.
Next stop for the young Scots is the ‘Baby Blacks’ (New Zealand under-20 side) in Kutaisi on 31st May. They will also face Ireland and Italy (again) in a tough Junior World Cup group.
“We need to get fitter because we are not fit by any standards, and they know that. We’ve talked about what we need to do and we’ve got a really comprehensive programme over the next nine weeks which is going to be driven pretty hard,” said Lineen.
“Compared to last year, which was a fairly established group – this year is a much newer group and they are learning all the time. We learn through playing this Six Nations to get ready for the Junior World Cup, and it was great to get a win against much bigger men.”
“Its one thing getting selected to play for Scotland, its another thing winning in the jersey – and that’s what they learned tonight.”
Scotland: D Graham; R Nairn, S McDowall, A Greig, L Trotter; J Henderson, A Simmers; G Thornton, F Renwick, A Nicol, H Bain, C Hunter-Hill, B Flockhart, M Fagerson, T Dodd. Subs: R Smith, D Winning, F Bradbury, J Ure, L Crosbie, C Shiel, C Pringle.
Italy: M Cioffi; A Bronzini, L Vaccari, M Zanon, G D’Onofrio; A Rizzi, C Trussardi; D Rimpelli, A Rollero, M Riccioni, L Masselli, N Cannone, J Bianchi, G Licata, M Lamaro. Subs: D Fischetti, D Borean, G Zilocchi, G Vendetti, L Manni, M Panunzi, M Biondelli, R Dal Zilio.
Scotland: Tries: Graham 2, Simmers, Dodd, Fagerson; Cons: Henderson 5; Pen: Henderson.
Italy: Tries: Riccioni, Panunzi, d’Onofrio; Con; Rizzo.
Scoring Sequence (Scotland first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 14-0; 17-0 (h-t) 22-0; 24-0; 31-0; 31-5; 31-10; 31-12; 31-17; 36-17; 38-17.
Red Cards –
Italy: Masselli, Manni
Yellow Cards –
Man-of-the-Match: Scoring a 75 metre try is usually enough to get this accolade by itself – Matt Fagerson did that, and much more in an all-action open-side flanker performance.
Images: Craig Watson – www.craigwatson.co.uk