Italy ground out their first Autumn International win at their final attempt in today’s early kick off against Fiji in Modena.
Italy won 24-16 with every point coming from the boot of Mirco Bergamasco, who kicked 8 penalties from 8, giving the home side the win despite Fiji’s spirited performance.
Tuapati Talemaitoga got Fiji off the mark with a ninth minute try and Bai added the conversion to put the visitors 7-0 up, but Italy produced some highly disciplined rugby to turn things around gradually before winning a touch comfortably thanks to Bergamasco’s perfect penalty kicking performance and their rock-solid defence.
Italy got back to 6-7 with two quick Bergamasco penalties, both of which were straightforward kicks following front row infringements – dropping the scrum and pulling down a maul – before Fiji pulled out two of their own from the boot of Bai. Bergamasco added another penalty to make it 9-13 with half time beckoning.
However, an uncharacteristic moment of Italian ill-discipline saw Castrogiovanni sin-binned in the final moments of the half. Bai helped himself to a simple penalty, making the score 9-16 when the sides came in for their oranges.
Fiji looked to land a killer blow early in the second half and worked some good moves, but Italy’s defence held firm and they came away from Fijian territory with two more penalties and the deficit cut to just one point after ten minutes of second-half play.
Italy at last took the lead in the 59th minute when Bergamasco added his sixth penalty.
This moment seemed to signal a key momentum shift and Italy had a good chance to add five points with a line-out deep in Fijian territory which was spilled forwards at the breakdown.
Fiji then took a long shot at goal that was short and wide, before Italy stretched their lead following another scrummaging infringement from Fiji and Begamasco’s important seventh kick – which pushed the lead to a vital and demoralising four points, considering how strong Italy’s defence had proved.
A further penalty a minute from the end gave Bergamasco his eighth from eight, and produced a final score which perhaps flattered the Italians, but they were fully worth the win as their defensive effort early in the second period had been nothing short of magnificent.