World Rugby U20 Championship: Italians score in injury-time to break Scottish hearts

Redpath's boys have four days to recover before Argentina encounter

Niccolo Taddia
Replacement hooker Niccolo Taddia scores the winning try for Italy against Scotland on day one of the World Rugby U20 Championship *** Photo: Bernard Rivière / World Rugby.

Scotland 26
Italy 27

IT ended in heartbreak for Scotland Under-20s in Beziers this evening when Italian power at the pit-face secured a try deep into injury time, to secure the narrowest of victories for the Azzurri on day one of the 2018 World Rugby U20 Championship. The Scots dominated the almost all of the first half, and large chunks of the second-half, but a lack of composure when they needed to play the percentages cost them dearly at the death.

It was a cruel conclusion to a game in which Bryan Redpath’s boys showed tremendous courage and no little ingenuity, but they have no time to lick their wounds. They are back in action against Argentina on Sunday and must win that match to have any sort of chance of making the top eight.

“It is a huge disappointment for the boys and myself,” said head coach Redpath. “I thought we were outstanding for 90 per cent of the match but there were three instances we didn’t manage to get right in the final five minutes and we learned tonight that you pay a heavy price for things like that at this level.

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“I’ve been brutally honest with the boys about this being a lesson for them in the reality of senior, international rugby. They need to learn from the experience because things like that will keep happening unless they are a bit more streetwise about making the right decisions and being accurate at key moments.

“I can’t question their work-ethic and desire. We led that game for 75 minutes. We were the better team overall, but we didn’t get out of the game what we put into it because of what we let happen in the last five minutes.

“They have to be ready to go again in four days’ time because that game is coming whether we like it or not. As long as everyone is honest and takes their share of the blame, then I am firmly of the belief that we can come back stronger from the experience.”

Scrum-half Charlie Chapman’s long-range offside penalty after five minutes floated to the left of the posts, but the scrum-half was bang-on with a 30-yard effort four minutes later.

The Italians should have squared things after quarter of an hour, when Scotland number eight Devante Onojaife was penalised for lurking on the wrong side of a maul near his own line, but Antonio Rizzi badly miscued his shot at goal from almost directly in front of the sticks.

As the match moved into its second quarter, the Italian’s had a brief spell on the front foot, with their rush defence unsettling the Scots and some powerful forward play building pressure. The lead changed hands when a dominant Italian scrum secured a penalty try, but the Scots responded superbly, and the excellent Cammy Hutchison led the charge with a powerful midfield burst past five or six tackles.

Logan Trotter couldn’t capitalise when the ball was spread to the right touchline, but the Scots were awarded a penalty, and Ross Dunbar finally got the ball down after two well-constructed line-out drives.

It got even better for the Scots just before the break when Trotter put enough pressure on Italian full-back Michelangelo Biondelli to force the ball loose and Hutchison gathered. The Currie Chieftains centre managed to offload to Rory Darge, who initially appeared to take the wrong option when he fed Jamie Hodgson on his left, despite three men spare on his right, but the ball was kept alive and after a sharp recycle, Chapman bobbed and weaved over from close range

Italian woes deepened a few minutes later when, after another powerful interjection from Hutchison, Giovanni D’Onofrio was yellow-carded for a high tackle on Paddy Dewhirst.

Poveri Scozzesi

The Scots were well worth their six-point half-time lead having enjoyed 73 per-cent of possession – gaining 378 metres from 77 carries, compared to 87 metres from 27 Italian carries. Scotland had 29 gain-line successes during that first 40, while Italy managed just 13.

But they stuttered out of the blocks after the break, with Ross Thompson kicking the restart out on the full, Finlay Scott over-throwing a line-out and Stafford McDowall failing to bring down opposite number Damiano Mazza, before an offside penalty allowed Antonio Rizzi to narrow the gap to three points.

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Chapman was illegally bundled away from the back of a ruck by Michele Mancini Parri but was clearly unruffled by the experience as he exacted his revenge, stepping forward to restore the six-point advantage with another successful pot at goal.

Then some excellent handling, started by a superb back-handed flip from McDowall, followed by a neat exchange of passes between Dewhirst and Kyle Rowe, sent Dewhirst in for try number three.

The Italians emptied their bench and it had the desired effect. An expertly weighted grubber from replacement stand-off Filippo Di Marco was gathered at full-tilt by D’Onofrio on his way to the line, and although Chapman kept Scotland’s side of the scoreboard ticking over with a third successful penalty, the Italians had found their groove and Di Marco was once again heavily involved in the build up to  Alessandro Forcucci powerfully take try up the right touch-line.

Set-piece woes

Scotland’s set-piece had been shaky all match, but now that they were under serious pressure in so many other areas it had become a real problem. They were shunted off their own scrum ball inside with just over ten minutes to go and it took some frantic defence from Callum McLelland and Trotter, followed by a cool-headed clearance from Chapman to repel that wave of attack.

Darge chipped-in with some excellent scavenging on the deck, and for a moment it looked as if the Scots had snuffeed Italy’s late rally, especially when Forcucci was carded or a deliberate knock-on.

The Scots now needed to close the game down, but they missed touch with the subsequent penalty, lost two more line-outs, and twice coughed up possession when trying to put some width on the game.

The Italians took advantage through brute force, and with Sam Grahamslaw in the sin-bin for collapsing a maul, the pressure became unbearable. The decisive score came two minutes into injury time when Niccolò Taddia got the ball down under a pile of bodies which must have numbered 12 individuals from each side.

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Teams –

Scotland: P Dewhirst; L Trotter, C Hutchison (F Strachan 72), S McDowall, K Rowe; R Thompson (C McLelland 68), C Chapman; R Dunbar (S Grahamslaw 55), F Scott (R Smith 68), F Richardson (M Walker 40), J Hodgson (C Jupp 71), E Johnston, M Hughes, R Darge, D Onojaife (G Graham 71).

Italy: M Biondelli; A Forcucci, A De Masi, D Mazza, G D’onofrio; A Rizzi (F Di Marco 54), N Casilio (L Crosato 76); D Fischetti, M Luccardi (N Taddia 54), M Mancini Parri (M Nocera 54), M Canali, E Iachizzi (M Canali 46), J Bianchi (A Koffi 54), M Lamaro (J Bianchi 78), L Manni.

Scorers –

Scotland: Try: Dunbar, Chapman, Dewhirst; Con: Chapman; Pen: Chapman 3.

Italy: Try: Penalty Try, D’Onofrio, Forcucci, Taddia; Con: Di Marco 2; Pen: Rizzi.

Scoring sequence (Scotland first): 3-0; 3-7; 8-7; 13-7 (h-t) 13-10; 16-10; 21-10; 23-10; 23-15; 23-17; 26-17; 26-22; 26-27

Yellow cards –

Italy: D’Onofrio, Forcucci

Scotland: Grahamslaw


  1. This is a Scotland team who are severely underpowered in the forwards, but I suppose we already knew this from the 6 Nations.

    It’s all well and good playing a fast and open game as suggested by the Technical Blueprint, but you also have to do the grunt work to earn the right to chuck the ball around.

    It’s a bit like watching the senior team and Glasgow at times – where we just want to throw it about as though it’s 7s, but without the space available.

    We now have to face Argentina, who I’m guessing will have a set of forwards, and England, who will be looking for a bit of payback from the 6 Nations.

    We need a result against one of these two, else we’ll be competing for 9th-12th spot against some handy teams.

  2. Sorry Scotland, if only you had kept your cool and slowed the game towards the last few minutes you might have held your lead, unfortunately all I saw was a team who thought we have a few more minutes too score again and it went against you. Learn from your mistakes, apart from the end the rest of the game was excellent and good team work. Roll on the next game.

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