Scotland Under-20 7-9 Italy Under-20

Scotland under-20’s 6 Nations campaign came to a hugely frustrating conclusion at Bridgehaugh on Friday night as Peter Wright’s men suffered a 9-7 defeat to their Italian counterparts despite dominating large swathes of the game.

A lack of incision when it counted, together with five missed penalties, saw the hosts left to both scratch their heads and lick their wounds.

Scotland under-20’s 6 Nations campaign came to a hugely frustrating conclusion at Bridgehaugh on Friday night as Peter Wright’s men suffered a 9-7 defeat to their Italian counterparts despite dominating large swathes of the game.

A lack of incision when it counted, together with five missed penalties, saw the hosts left to both scratch their heads and lick their wounds.

Head coach Wright admitted: “We created enough and we made enough line breaks, but we missed three difficult kicks and two difficult ones and that [defeat] is what ends up happening.

“As I said to the players afterwards, you don’t get many tries at this level, so you’ve got to keep the scoreboard ticking over. We didn’t do that, and it cost us. We weren’t clinical enough to finish off what we’d created, and it’s a harsh lesson for the team about what it takes to win in international rugby.”

The Scots must now regroup before heading to the bel paese for June’s IRB Junior World Championship, a tournament that could see them come head-to-head with the Azzurri once more.

The home team made a storming start to Friday’s match, immediately making clear their intention to take the game to Italy.

Harry Leonard had already made one promising incision when the Edinburgh Elite Development player’s midfield colleague Mark Bennett tore up the far touchline and left the Italian defence in his wake before throwing a nice inside pass to Mike Doneghan, who burned the last line of cover and touched down between the sticks.

It was a particularly sweet strike for the Glasgow Warriors man, who plays his club rugby on this very ground. Leonard added the extras to cement the Scots’ positive opening.

The centre swiftly came up with another break in the centre of the field, offloading adroitly to tight-head George Hunter on his shoulder, only for the skipper to be penalised for holding on. Winger Marco Antonio Gennari struck the ball mightily and cleanly to narrow the gap to four points.

Evidently heeding Wright’s pre-match instruction to tend possession carefully and string together phases, the Scots strove to gradually increase pressure with a methodical approach. They did, however, pass up the chance of another three points when Bennett’s penalty attempt drifted just wide of the left-hand post after Italy held on.

The outside centre’s night took another turn for the worse shortly after when he spilled the ball in midfield, allowing Italy to turn the screw on the Scottish defence and force a penalty which Gennari duly slotted over.

Bennett quickly made amends, again bursting through the massed Azzurri ranks with apparent ease to get the home crowd on their feet, even if he proceeded to evade the Scottish support runners as well as the Italian defence.

The break did have the welcome effect of laying the foundations for another spell of good territory and possession for the young, white-clad Scots, who would have stretched their advantage had Bennett been marginally more accurate with a further penalty from the left.

The hosts had lost the impressive Leonard to a head knock by this stage, his place taken by Kerr Gossman, a starter in each of the previous four tournament games.

HALF-TIME: SCOTLAND UNDER-20 7-6 ITALY UNDER-20

Scotland’s travails from the kicking tee continued upon the resumption of hostilities, Stuart Edwards missing out on the chance to open his account on home turf after lock Andrea Balsemin was pinged for side entry at a ruck.

These were frustrating near-things for the Scots, whose general play showcased any number of positive things. Bennett continued to excel in open play, carving it up in grand style on at least half a dozen occasions, while James Tyas and Hamish Watson maintained an effective presence at the breakdown in both an attacking and defensive sense.

This pair were joined in the back-row by Heriot’s prospect Lawrie Seydak, who emerged from the bench in place of Alex Spence to make his Scotland under-20 debut.

The home side enjoyed a virtual monopoly in both the territory and possession stakes for the duration of the third quarter, regularly spotting and exploiting gaps one and two passes away from the ruck, but they lacked a certain composure and clinical edge upon finding themselves in the Italian 22.

The importance of converting pressure into points was underlined in the 64th minute, when a collapsed scrum gave Italy the opportunity to nudge themselves in front for the first time. Gennari’s effort from the half-way line didn’t have the legs, but the Bancamonteparma Crociati player fared better with his next effort, brought about by Scotland going over the top at a ruck.

Bennett’s struggles with the boot were, alas, not to disappear in the crucial closing minutes, with two more penalties going awry as the Scots failed to claim the win their dominance should have delivered.

Scotland under-20: G Bryce; M Doneghan, M Bennett, H Leonard (K Gossman 25min), S Atkin; S Edwards, J Stevenson (J Munro 57min); R Hislop, D Cherry, G Hunter (captain), M Eadie (M Todd 61min), R McAlpine, A Spence (L Seydak 52min), J Tyas, H Watson:

Italy under-20: M Appiani; A Morsellino, M Visentin, F Menon, MA Gennari; L Morisi, G Palazzani; N Quaglio, A Lupetti, P Leso (captain), M Fuser, A Balsemin, E Ghiraldini, R Riccioli, G Brancoli

Ref: D Wilkinson (IRFU)