U20 6N: Too many errors frustrate Scots’ hopes of winning finale

Scotland captain Stafford McDowall scored one of his team's four tries against Italy. Image: ©INPHO/Craig Watson.

ITALY U20 45


THE Scotland Under-20s’ Six Nations campaign ended in disappointment this afternoon at the Stadio della Vittoria in Bari as they lost out to an Italian side that was in front from the first few minutes. The defeat means Stevie Scott’s team have ended the Championship with just one victory from their five matches – the home triumph over their English counterparts.

As was the case against Ireland a week later, Scotland went behind after only three minutes and were always playing catch-up thereafter. Italy No 8 Antoine Koffi was announced as man of the match, and head coach Scott acknowledged that the home team had played well. But he insisted that, on another day, his team could have ended up on top if they had played to their potential.

“We had a big focus this week on starting really well, but we dropped the first kick-off and were under the pump straight away,” he said. “We were playing into a stiff breeze, and after going 15 points behind we managed to scrape it back to 10 points at half-time.

“It was definitely more than a 10-point wind, that’s for sure, and we should have scored a lot more points in the second half. But every time we managed to get back into the game, our errors allowed them to score too easily, which was obviously disappointing.

“We did get outmuscled a bit, physicality-wise. We got tested at the breakdown, that’s for sure. There were too many missed tackles that led to easy scores – they didn’t have to work very hard to get points on the board, which is the frustrating thing.

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“They’re a good side, and they have improved – they showed that when they beat Wales last week. They’re a big physical side and they’ve got some key players – the 10, for example, is a good player – so it was always going to be a difficult challenge. Any away game is difficult to win, but our performance wasn’t good enough on the day.

“If we had played as we did against England, and in the second half against Ireland, we would have beaten them. That’s the disappointing thing.”

The story of the blues

Italy’s third-minute lead came through the splendidly named winger Albert Einstein Batista who grabbed the first of his team’s seven tries. Full-back Michelangelo Biondelli missed that conversion attempt, but was on target in the 12th minute after hooker Matteo Lucardi scored his team’s second try from a lineout drive.

Scotland hit back midway through the half when Ayr full-back Paddy Dewhirst touched down and Ross Thompson added the two points, but the Italians responded straight away, with winger Alessandro Forcucci getting their third try. Stand-off Antonio Rizzi took over the kicking duties, but missed his conversion attempt.

It got worse for the visitors after half an hour when Forcucci scored again to secure the bonus point, and this time Rizzi did manage to score the extra points to make it 24-7. Scotland needed a score to get back into the game before half-time, and they managed it in the second-last minute of the half through captain Stafford McDowall. Thompson converted to give the scoreline at the break a somewhat healthier look.

It became healthier still four minutes into the second half when winger Logan Trotter grabbed his team’s third try, again converted by Thompson. Again, however, the hosts were not long in replying, as their captain, flanker Michele Lamaro, got their fifth try of the day. Rizzi’s conversion stretched their lead back into double figures.

A Thompson penalty quarter of an hour into the second half chipped three points off that lead, and Scotland were soon back on the offensive. When the Azzurrini counter-attacked in numbers, however, loosehead prop Danilo Fischetti was able to finish off between the posts, giving Rizzi the easiest of chances to add another conversion to his tally.

With a little over 10 minutes to go, the stand-off attempted a drop goal that would surely have finally killed the game off, but his effort was wide. In the closing stages, however, Scotland were unable to get the score that would have thrown the outcome back into doubt.

Finished off

With less than two minutes to play, Alessandro Fusco claimed Italy’s seventh try of the afternoon with an interception from the edge of the Scots 22, and this time it was Fusco’s fellow-substitute Filippo di Marco who added the conversion. Dewhirst had the last word for Scotland with his second try in the last minute, and Thompson converted, but the try bonus was no more than a slight consolation.

Although Scott made no effort to hide his disappointment after the match, he was also able to reflect on the considerable progress that has been made since this group of players first assembled. While some inconsistency is inevitable at this level, they at least look a lot more able to recover from their mistakes as a team than they did in the opening match against Wales.

“The group has grown massively since we came together in November for a training camp,” the coach added. “They’ve improved as they went along: it’s just a disappointing result to finish the campaign. If we’d not made as many errors and if we were tighter defensively, we would have won that game.

“There’s lots of guys that have still got another year to play, and some of them have got another two years to play. The experience they’ve gained from playing in this campaign is huge. Playing at this level of rugby is key for them. They got better from game to game – I’m just disappointed we didn’t have our best performance this afternoon.”


Italy U20: M Biondelli; A Forcucci, A de Masi, D Mazza, A Batista; A Rizzi, L Crosato; D Fischetti, M Luccardi, M Mancini Parri, N Cannone, E Iachizzi, D Ruggeri, M Lamaro, A Koffii. Substitutes: S Ngeng, G Romano, M Nocera, M Canali, E Ghigo, L Bacchi, F di Marco, A Fusco.

Scotland U20: P Dewhirst; L Trotter, F Strachan, S McDowall, K Rowe; R Thompson, C Chapman; S Gunn, P Cairncross, F Richardson, E Johnson, J Hodgson, M Hughes, R Darge, D Onojaife. Substitutes: B Clements, N McBeth, M Walker, M Sykes, C Boyle, K Barreto, M New, S Yawayawa.


Italy: Tries: Batista, Luccardi, Forcucci 2, Lamaro, Fischetti, Fusco. Cons: Biondelli, Rizzi 3, Di Marco.

Scotland: Tries: Dewhirst 2, McDowall, Trotter. Cons: Thompson 4. Pen: Thompson.

Scoring sequence: 5-0, 10-0, 12-0, 12-5, 12-7, 17-7, 22-7, 24-7, 24-12, 24-14 half-time, 24-19, 24-21, 29-21, 31-21, 31-24, 36-24, 38-24, 43-24, 45-24, 45-29, 45-31.

Referee: D Jones ( Wales).

About Stuart Bathgate 1259 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.