Nestling at the foot of the Dolomites and blessed with a perfect evening of weather, Stadio Omero Tognon soon lost its picture-postcard appeal, however, as Scotland’s under-20 side lost 13-32 to a fiery Italian outfit. Down 3-24 at half time, the visitors did get their act together in the second half, outscoring the home side two tries to one but it was too little, too late, much to the delight of the partisan packed stadium which saw a pitch invasion of mini players on the final whistle, to cheer their local heroes.
Head coach Sean Lineen was quick to make no excuses for the performance that had left his players reeling. “It was a tough one. The boys are sore. We came up against a passionate, physical Italian outfit.
“We made it pretty easy for them in the first half – I was proud of the boys in the second half, they went out and scored two tries to one and showed a lot of character. Then they gave away a really silly try at the end.
“That’s where we are – guys making really simple mistakes, not showing a lot of composure. All four of their tries came from our ball. There’s spirit there but our set piece is inconsistent, we lost too many lineouts, our scrums were poor, and they controlled the game a lot better than us. Their big runners got going and we’re struggling to find and unleash our big runners.
“Our guys are finding out what this level of rugby is like. Everyone’s really hurting. We set the benchmark last season, this is a different group of players, there’s certainly potential there and we have to move forwards to France in two weeks’ time.”
After the opening scrum to Scotland in under a minute, it was Italy who quickly took control with full back Torlai scoring the first of his two tries in under five minutes when a gap opened wide across the Scotland defence. Stand-off Buscema converted, the first of three, supplemented by two penalties.
Some over enthusiastic tackling led to the first penalty to Scotland, nailed by stand-off Ben Chalmers from a good 30m. Getting points on the board spurred on the Scots to pick up on Italy’s subsequent passing slip with an intercept but they couldn’t capitalise on the opportunity. Turnover ball followed turnover ball and another tentative break from Chalmers but with no one in support, the chance was lost. Full back Ruairidh Young also made inroads with a jiggling break through the Italian back row but again there was no one to back him and another loose lineout followed.
Following a successful Italian penalty the frustration clear in both sides boiled to the surface with French referee Cedric Marchat forced to give the teams time to cool off, supplemented by a stiff talk to both captains. Scotland then had the advantage, with a lineout yards from the Italian whitewash but turnover ball and missed tackles led to Italy’s second try, from Azzolini, the extras again added by Buscema.
Six minutes short of halftime, just after Italy’s third converted try (Torlai and Buscema) the Scots made a double substitution, at prop (Rae) and scum half (Vellacott), which prompted some good passages of play and ensured the scoreline held at 3-24 on half time.
Two more substitutions during half time – Pequeur and Richardson – added fresh legs and the half-time talk had clearly added a new dimension to the side’s go-get. A clash of heads on Scotland’s 22m saw his Italian opposite number come off slightly worse than Sam James, however he was the first casualty of the night less than five minutes into the second half. A rolling maul had captain Tommy Spinks cross the line for Scotland’s first try – however Chalmers had to wait to make his conversion attempt as James was retrieved from the bottom of the maul and removed from the field with a leg injury.
Now with eight points against Italy’s 24, the Scots had the bit between their teeth and a period of sustained pressure, much of it involving no 8 Magnus Bradbury, had Italy rattled. Bradbury was somewhat hoisted by his own petard minutes later when over enthusiasm in the tackle saw him take the walk to the sin bin.
To Scotland’s credit, they didn’t ship any points when down to 14 men and minutes after Bradbury’s return, a carbon copy rolling maul sent Spinks over for his second – the conversion attempt from Chalmers just went wide. At 24-13 with nearly 20 minutes left and a steely new resolve, Scotland had every opportunity to fight back. More over enthusiastic play at the breakdown gifted Italy another penalty with seven minutes to go. The lead increased out of Scotland’s reach with four minute on the clock when a puzzling phase of play from the visitors saw Italy seize advantage and Gasparini cross to make the final score 32-13.
15 Ruairidh Young (Edinburgh Accies)
14 Jamie Farndale (Edinburgh Accies/Edinburgh Rugby) **
13 Blair Hutchison (Loughborough/Melrose)
12 Richard Taylor (Melrose/Loretto School) *
11 Damien Hoyland (Melrose) *
10 Ben Chalmers (Melrose)
9 Murdo McAndrew (Clermont Auvergne)
1 Jack Cosgrove (Worcester Warriors)
2 Sam James (London Wasps)
3 Philip Cringle (Edinburgh Accies/Edinburgh Rugby) **
4 Andrew Cramond (Aberdeen Grammar Rugby)
5 Glen Young (Newcastle Falcons)
6 Lewis Carmichael (Melrose) *
7 Tommy Spinks (London Scottish) CAPTAIN
8 Magnus Bradbury (Boroughmuir/Edinburgh Rugby) **
16 James Malcolm (Ayr) * (on for Sam James 44m)
17 D’arcy Rae (Ayr/Glasgow Warriors) ** (on for Cringle 34m)
18 Chris Barnes (Glasgow Hawks) *
19 Buchan Richardson (London Scottish) (on for G Young 40m)
20 Gabriel Carroll (Loughborough University)`
21 Ben Vellacott (Worcester Warriors/Hartpury) (on for McAndrew 34m)
22 George Horne (Currie) * (on for Chalmers 67m)
23 Sam Pecqueur (Edinburgh Accies) * (on for R Young 40m)
* member of Scottish Rugby’s Regional Academy supported by sportscotland Institute of Sport
** Elite Development Player 2013/14
15 Alessandro TORLAI (Rugby Reggio), 14 Gabriele DI GIULIO (Città di Frascati), 13 Giacomo DE SANTIS (UR Capitolina), 12 Gabriele MANGANIELLO (Petrarca Padova), 11 Lorenzo Maria BRUNO (IMA Lazio Rugby 1927), 10 Filippo BUSCEMA (UR Capitolina), 9 Maicol AZZOLINI (Pesaro Rugby) (C) 8 Federico RUZZA (Cus Padova), 7 Sebastian NEGRI (Western Province), 6 Marco LAZZARONI (Marchiol Mogliano) 5 Riccardo MICHIELETTO (Petrarca Padova), 4 Filippo SCALVI (Rugby Reggio), 3 Simone Pietro FERRARI (Marchiol Mogliano), 2 Marco SILVA (Rugby Colorno), 1 Derrick APPIAH (Marchiol Mogliano)
Substitutes: 16 Adriano DANIELE (Pomezia-Torvaianica) (on for Silva 58m), 17 Paolo BUONFIGLIO (UR PratoSesto) (on for Ferrari 67m), 18 Cherif TRAORE (Estra I Cavalieri Prato) (on for Appiah 77m), 19 Davide ZANETTI (Cammi Calvisano) (on for Michieletto 72m), 20 Matteo ARCHETTI (Rugby Rovato) (on for Scalvi 64m), 21 Simone PARISOTTO (Valsugana Rugby), 22 Matteo GASPARINI (Fiamme Oro) (on for De Santis 67m), 23 Yannick AGBASSE (Asolo Rugby)(on for Bruno 77m)
Referee: Cedric Marchat