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Scotland U20 3-43 Italy U20

Scotland suffered a chastening defeat at the hands of Italy in Cardiff this afternoon, as Sean Lineen’s side were defeated 43-3 by an impressive Italy outfit in the 2021 U20 Six Nations.

An energetic opening from both teams promised plenty of running rugby, with Italy striking for one of the tries of the championship with just five minutes on the clock. From their own five-metre line, clever footwork and excellent hands from Filippo Drago and Lorenzo Pani released Flavio Vaccari, with the winger having enough pace to outrun the scrambling Scottish cover defence from halfway for the score. The conversion drifted wide, but the Italians had laid down their gauntlet early on.

Buoyed by that early score, Italy set about throwing the ball from side to side, stretching the Scotland defence. Yet their second try arrived from a textbook counter-attack rather than any intricate attacking move; Simone Gesi’s gather of a loose ball saw the winger break clear, before chipping ahead for the chasing Pani. The full-back showed some high-quality dribbling abilities to control the bouncing ball, diving over to score despite the best efforts of Finlay Callaghan. Leonardo Marin converted, and Italy led 12-0.

Scotland responded well to the Italian sucker-punch, earning a penalty with 19 minutes on the clock after a strong carry from Max Williamson. Cameron Scott made no mistake from 30 metres to get the men in blue on the board, only for Marin to cancel out his strike with a penalty of his own just two minutes later.

Lineen’s men were struggling to gain any sort of foothold in the match, with their opponents exerting pressure both with and without the ball in midfield. Such pressure earned the Italians a penalty that was kicked to the corner on the half-hour mark, and from the set-piece there was no stopping Ion Neculai from a close-range pick and go. Marin’s conversion attempt was wayward, but the fly-half made amends with a penalty four minutes later to give his side a 23-3 half-time advantage.

Knowing that the next score would be crucial to any chance of mounting a comeback, a reinvigorated Scotland came out of the changing rooms fighting. A barrelling run from Archie Smeaton skittled a couple of Italian defenders, whilst Christian Townsend was making an impact off the bench.

It would be the Italians who would cross the whitewash first in the second half, however. Turnover ball saw Vaccari elude two tackles, before lifting an inside ball to captain Luca Andreani. The flanker finished well despite pressure from Michael Gray, Marin’s conversion sailing wide to leave the score at 28-3 with 54 minutes played.

More was to come from the men in white; a fifth try arrived three minutes later, as Manfredi Albanese spotted a gap down the blindside to snipe over from 15 metres from an attacking lineout. Marin added the extras via the uprights, converting the scrum-half’s try for a 35-3 lead.

Another Italian try soon followed, as Italy revelled in the Cardiff sunshine. Vaccari once again made the inroads into the Scottish 22, before the ball was shipped to the opposite touchline for loose-head prop Marco Spagnolo to crash over. The conversion was unsuccessful, but the Italians were in no mood to care too much.

With replacements entering the fray from both benches, the final quarter of the match was a scrappy, defence-dominated affair. A scoreless period was eventually ended by Italy on 73 minutes, replacement fly-half Nicolo Tennegi on target with a penalty from 35 metres to make it 43-3.

That would be the final score of the match, despite the best efforts of Lineen’s side in the closing stages. Scotland will now pick themselves up and turn their attentions to Wednesday’s meeting with France, as they look to pick up their first points of the 2021 championship.

live commentary 2:00 PM Thursday 1 Jul 2021

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