Scotland v Italy
In stifling conditions, Scotland battled throughout but eventually succumbed to Italy in their opening Rugby World Cup 2021 Europe Qualifier in Parma.
Italy flew out of the blocks, barging over from close range with barely two minutes on the clock, through flanker Giada Franco. Scotland’s response was swift, edging up the park and eventually deciding to take the points on offer for a penalty for not releasing, Helen Nelson slotting to get the Scots on the board.
The visitors’ defence, in the energy-sapping heat, was put to the test throughout the opening exchanges, with a series of hits ensuring the Italians were kept at bay. The returning Jade Konkel, a genuine threat with ball in hand, ensured that Scotland had a consistent go-to option when they did gain possession, her physicality from No 8 a welcome sight in the dark blue.
Scotland then counter-attacked through kicks from Hannah Smith and then Lisa Thomson, the latter of which displaying a deftness of touch that reaped a penalty for not releasing – although no points were forthcoming.
Italy struck again soon after a water break for both sides, their skipper Manuela Furlan dotting down in the corner despite the excellent efforts of Rhona Lloyd to force her fellow winger into touch. A third home try saw scrum-half Sara Barattin finish after a smart offload and the conversion extended the lead to 19-3.
With five minutes of the first half remaining, Nelson kicked her second penalty of the afternoon to haul the Scots back into proceedings, but it was Italy who struck the last blow of the half, flanker Ilaria Arrighetti adding her side’s fourth try, which was converted.
SCOTLAND 6-26 ITALY
Scotland began the second half with intent, reaping several penalties and consistently gaining ground through particularly Konkel, their direct structure piercing the home Italian defence time and again, although no scoreboard amends were made for efforts given.
Such was Scotland’s phase play in opposition territory that it took until the 55th minute for the first points of the half to come, although it was Italy who extended their lead after Michela Sillari finished off a stellar counter, converting her own score to make it 33-6.
Furlan dotted down for her second - and Italy’s fifth - of the match following a tidy grubber through as Scotland tired in the heat before another water break on the hour mark.
Francesca Sgorbini was shown a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on shortly after as Scotland sensed the opportunity to make inroads into the deficit and the try eventually came on 69 minutes as Rhona Lloyd stretched over in the corner, substitute Sarah Law nailing her touchline conversion.
There were no further scores in the game, with Scotland putting in an excellent second half shift in Parma, but their opening Rugby World Cup 2021 qualifier ended in defeat, with the next game coming on Saturday 19 September, kick-off 5pm BST.
SCOTLAND 13-38 ITALY
SCOTLAND: Chloe Rollie; Rhona Lloyd, Hannah Smith, Lisa Thomson, Megan Gaffney; Helen Nelson, Jenny Maxwell; Leah Bartlett, Lana Skeldon, Christine Belisle, Emma Wassell, Sarah Bonar, Rachel Malcolm ©, Louise McMillan, Jade Konkel.
live commentary 2:00 PM Monday 13 Sep 2021
Jenny Maxwell9. Scrum half
Helen Nelson10. Flyhalf
Megan Gaffney11. Left Wing
Lisa Thomson12. Inside Centre
Hannah Smith13. Outside Centre
Rhona Lloyd14. Right Wing
Chloe Rollie15. Full Back
Leah Bartlett1. Loosehead
Lana Skeldon2. Hooker
Christine Belisle3. Tighthead
Emma Wassell4. Lock
Sarah Bonar5. Lock
Rachel Malcolm6. Blindside Flanker
Louise McMillan7. Openside Flanker
Jade Konkel8. Number 8