Women’s 6N Summer Series: Scotland U20 denied at the death by Italy

Committed attacking performance from Claire Cruikshank's side falls just short in Parma

Scotland U20s pre Italy
Scotland Under-20s line up for their first-ever official match, against hosts Italy in the Women's Six Nations Summer Series. Image courtesy Six Nations/Scottish Rugby.

Italy U20s 17

Scotland U20s 13


AN ENTHRALLING game in which both teams were committed to adventurous attack ended in a narrow defeat for Scotland tonight in Parma. Playing their first official match as a team, Claire Cruikshank’s side fought back from an early deficit to take a narrow lead at half-time, but the hosts got the only score of the second half at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.

Scotland did have chances to hit back right up until the final whistle, but in a nerve-wracking finale Sky Phimister just failed to touch down after kicking ahead for what would have been a sensational winning score.

“There are lot of things that we can fix quite quickly,” head coach Cruikshank said. “There’s some real positives in creating opportunities, which is fantastic to see. There are definitely more positives.

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“We got to the edge and we created opportunities, we just need to not force it. Those are simple fixes.

“We maybe didn’t hold onto the ball, maybe need to hold onto it a little bit more. But from a defensive point of view, I thought our contact area was brilliant and when we looked to move the ball, we were dangerous. So there are loads of positives to take into the next two games.”

Italy were on the front foot almost straight from the first whistle as a short kick-off from Lucia Scott gave them a platform from which to build. An attack from the scrum gained substantial ground, and was only halted illegally. The penalty went to touch, the lineout was won cleanly, and Vittoria Zanette burst through from the back of the maul to score the game’s first try. Martina Busana converted.

Scotland began to hit back after that, and Ceitidh Ainsworth and Phimister had promising half-breaks before the Italians conceded a penalty on the edge of their own 22. Lucy MacRae opened the visitors’ account with the kick.

Italy seemed sure to score on their next attack, in which they once again sent a penalty to touch well inside the Scottish 22, but this time Zanette was held up beyond the goal line. Then, 15 minutes from half-time, Scotland took the lead. 

A turnover in midfield went left, Nicole Flynn fed Hannah Walker close to touch, and then the winger passed back inside for Flynn to touch down. MacRae converted to make it 7-10.

Italy had a score harshly chalked off after Francesca Andreoli was judged to have tapped a penalty from the wrong spot before touching down, but the try was only delayed. When the award was taken from the right position, an excellent carry by No 8 Elena Errichiello had the defence on the back foot, and Aregash Pellizzon finished off. The conversion attempt by Busana was missed.

That made it 12-10 to the hosts, but in the last five minutes of the half Scotland regained the lead through a MacRae penalty from all of 40 metres. They might have been further ahead by the break, but first they opted to run a very kickable penalty well inside the Italian 22 only for a knock-on to end the attack, and then – after a brilliant charge-down by Leia Brebner-Holden – Walker was tackled into touch just short of the try line.

Scotland dominated almost all of the third quarter, but they were able to mount no more than a couple of promising attacks which the Italians coped with in relative comfort. Then, just before the hour mark, the home team regained the lead when substitute Greta Copat finished off cutely on the left. Busana failed to add the two points, leaving her team’s lead at four points.

The water breaks midway through either half and the ability to make up to a dozen rollover replacements no doubt helped both sides cope with the hot conditions, but the error count began to rise notably as the game entered its closing stages. Phimister continued to threaten every time she had possession, but the thrust had gone out much of the Scots attack.

With time running out, Italy conjured up a breakaway from nowhere, and only a last-ditch tackle by Walker denied them what would have been the clinching score. Scotland regathered, then with the clock in the red they kicked the ball away.

That appeared to be an error, but Phimister got there first and hacked ahead. The winger kicked on twice more as she and an Italian defender raced for the line, but her last kick went over the dead-ball line just before she was able to touch down.   

In yesterday’s earlier games, France beat Wales 57-12, while England defeated Ireland 33-10. Scotland’s bext game is against the French next Tuesday, before they conclude their programme with a match against Ireland on Sunday 14th.

This new Summer Series competition is a leap into the unknown for all the teams, and Cruikshank, for one, is looking forward to the two forthcoming matches. “We’re excited for the next two games – we’ve got two great challenges coming up with France and Ireland,” she added. “We’re looking forward to seeing what this squad can do.

“France actually play quite similarly to Italy, they like to keep the ball alive, to move it, they have got some really strong runners. They will be a different challenge to what we faced today but one that we are really looking forward to.
“The forwards put in real work across the whole game, scrums, lineout. I thought our lineout was excellent. We definitely had the upper hand in several scrums. So the set-piece gave us a platform and we know that if we can get a platform, then we have the backs who [can] challenge anyone in this competition.”


Teams – 

Italy Under-20:  R Grassi; E Cecati, S Catellani, G Corradini, M Busana; S Mannini, N Mastrangelo; A Maione, S Fent (captain), V Zanette, A Della Sala, F Andreoli, L Sacchi, M Tonellotto, E Errichiello.  Replacements: C Cheli, A Cittadini, A Fortuna, E Costantini, G Copat, A Bitonci, A Pellizzon, M Pirpiliu.  

Scotland Under-20: L Scott; S Phimister, N Flynn, L MacRae, H Walker (co-captain); C Ainsworth, L Brebner-Holden; P Fletcher (co-captain), A Ronald, E Fleming, H Bogan, N Logan, M Gunderson, L Walter, M Hyland. Replacements: K Craig, C Brown, M Poolman, T Tawake, G Bell, R Douglas, H Ramsay, N Marlow.

Referee: Shane Gaughan (Ireland).


Scorers –

Italy U20s: Tries: Zanette, Pellizzon, Copat. Con: Busana. 

Scotland U20s: Try: Flynn. Con: MacRae. Pens: Macrae 2.

Scoring sequence (Italy U20s first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-3; 7-8; 7-10; 12-10; 12-13 (h-t); 17-13.

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About Stuart Bathgate 1438 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.

1 Comment

  1. An entertaining game of rugby. Thought we were going to struggle in the scrums, but found parity there after the first few. Looks like we’ve got some decent rugby players coming through, and we’ve got a goal kicker.


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