Italy U20s V Scotland U20s
After a rousing victory over England in round three of the competition, and an impressive losing bonus-point garnering performance away to Ireland in round four, Scotland U20 fell well short of those previous standards set in this afternoon’s 45-31 Six Nations loss to Italy.
In front of three thousand strong, partisan crowd at Bari’s Stadio della Vittoria, Scotland could not live with the pace, power and direct nature of Italy’s offence and ultimately shot themselves in the foot with a series of mistakes at crucial points in the game.
The hosts – who shot out to a 12-0 lead with only 15 minutes on the clock – led for the entirety of the match and despite Scotland clawing back to within three points of the azzuri shortly after half-time, the Italians were never truly in danger of falling behind.
Scotland will be proud of the way they battled back into the encounter, however when Stafford McDowall and Logan Trotter dotted down either side of the break, the visitors had life, but when it came to the crunch they simply could not turn their momentum into points – which could have ultimately won them the game.
And, when Alessanrdro Fusco intercepted to score with only three minutes remaining, the match was all but over.
Despite the result – which means Scotland will finish bottom of the U20 Six Nations table – Head Coach Stevie Scott felt his side could feel proud of their development over the course of the campaign.
“We got outmuscled a bit, physicality-wise. We got tested at the breakdown, that’s for sure,” said Scott.
“There were too many missed tackles that led to easy scores - they didn’t have to work very hard to get points on the board, which is the frustrating thing."
“The group has grown massively since we came together in November for a training camp. They’ve improved as they went along: it’s just a disappointing result to finish the campaign.
“If we’d not made as many errors and if we were tighter defensively, we would have won that game.
“There’s lots of guys that have still got another year to play, and some of them have got another two years to play. The experience they’ve gained from playing in this campaign is huge.
“Playing at this level of rugby is key for them. They got better from game to game - I’m just disappointed we didn’t have our best performance this afternoon.”
With a crowd desperate for a home victory, Italy got off to the perfect start when Albert Batista dived over in the corner after only five minutes on the clock. Scotland – who struggled to break out of their own twenty-two in the opening stages – soon fell further behind.
After kicking a penalty to the corner, the Italians gathered, set up, and powerfully drove over the whitewash from only metres out. As the impressive Antonio Rizzi slotted home, the conversion, the visitors were twelve points behind.
Scotland would soon answer back, however a slick handling move was finished in the corner by elusive fullback Paddy Dehirst, and with Ross Thompson curling in the resulting conversion, the age-grade side were back in the contest.
However, Italy would answer back immediately. A barnstorming run from Antoine Koffi set free Alessandro Forcucci, who finished in the corner.
Scotland finished the first-half on a high when McDowall – who carried relentlessly all afternoon – twisted and turned his way over the whitewash from five-metres out and at the break the score read 24-14.
With the wind in their sails, Scotland began the second-half as they’d finished the first. With momentum and on top of their opponents. Trotter clambered over in the corner, before Thompson converted to bring Scott’s side to within three points.
But, again Italy had an instant answer. A clever lineout drive resulted in a quick-fire try – and Scotland again had it all to do.
Although Thompson – an accurate kicker throughout the encounter – nailed another penalty to eat into the deficit, Italy fired into another gear for the final 20 minutes.
Tries from Danillp Fischetti and then a final minute interception from Fusco mean that Scotland end the 2018 U20 Six Nations with a disappointing loss.