Italy have defeated Scotland at home in their 2010 RBS 6 Nations match, which took place in Rome this afternoon.
The sides came in at half time with the scores level at six points all following two penalties apiece.
Scotland could have lead at half time as Dan Parks missed a penalty from wide on the right, but Italy deserved to be on level terms having controlled possession and territory for the first twenty minutes, during which they were rewarded with two straightish penalties, both of which were taken by Bergamasco.
The Scottish pack were strong in the scrummage, and pushed the powerful Italians back on more than one occasion, while the Italians were excellent at the breakdown, winning three turnovers which disrupted Scottish attempts to flow through the phases. In particular, Italian counter rucking was excellent, which, coupled with the Italian flank pairing strong in the tackle to turn their man more than once, saw Italy in control up front.
That said, the Italian backs looked short on ideas with the ball in hand until late in the second half when, with the scores locked at 9-9, Italy produced a magnificent scissors move to allow outside centre Gonzalo Canale to burst through. Canale stepped hard off his right foot as he powered into the Scottish 22 and managed to pick out replacement Pablo Canavosio with his pass from the ground under a tackle to put the man wearing number 20 in under the posts.
This moment of inspiration, coupled with some excellent scrambled defence, would see Italy hold on for a momentous victory which they deserved, by 16 points to 12. Scotland, for another match in succession, however, will be bitterly disappointed that they didn’t take their chances to push on and win the match in the middle part of the second half.
On two or three occassions, Scotland had five metre scrum put-ins that came to nothing: on one occassion in the second half, their scrummage collapsed to give away a penalty. This time, as against Wales, the trouble seemed to be when the front line props were replaced: Scotland appear short of one or two international standard props – when Dickinson came on, the Scottish scrum capitulated.
Scotland won the ball 22 times in the Italian 22, yet failed to convert this pressure into points: Dan Parks’ second half drop goal a case in point as the naturalised Australian took three points from ten metres rather than continuing to probe for a try which looked less and less likely to come.
Scotland may rightly point to the professional foul at the end of the first half which went unpunished during yet another phase of attacking play, but, 15 against 15, they produced enough for at least one five pointer today but were unable to find a man on the shoulder at the right time.
Today’s match was wonderfully close, hard fought game of rugby that came down to one key difference: when Barclay broke clear for Scotland on a couple of occassions he looked for a man on his shoulder and found none. When Canale broke for Italy and did the same, he found one. It is on such tight margins that RBS 6 Nations matches are now decided: this was an excellent, exciting game of rugby that shows the depth this tournament now has.
That these two were playing to potentially avoid the wooden spoon would suggest that the quality was far lower than it, in fact, was today. Both Italy and Scotland have very solid defences, which will trouble the remaining teams they are yet to face. Italy or Scotland could well disrupt a Grand Slam attempt this year and, on today’s evidence, few could say it would be surprising if either of them does.