Ireland had to sweat to beat Italy in third Six Nations’ Round
Against all odds, Italy and Ireland delivered a highly entertaining match which saw the visitors prevail only in second half after trailing at half time.
Both teams were without their usual captains: Serio Parisse and Rory Best, Italy, unexpectedly wasn’t the team to suffer most from the absence of their stalwart.
Italy was plagued, as in the previous home game, from too many penalties, especially in the second half of the match, but was excellent at the line out, defended with courage and attacked with passion, showing once again to deserve their place in the continental competition.
Tito Tebaldi, on his first start at number 9 for the tournament, was the stand out for the Wild Boars, whilst day’s captain O’Mahoney was the best for the men in green thanks to two crucial turnovers deep into Ireland territory.
Italy’s defence was capable to resist Ireland’s early pressure, with crucial turn-overs in their 22 meters in first 10 minutes of play, but after 19 phases of play their finally succumbed to the visitors’ pressure and conceded the first try of the match under their posts. Pretoria’s born lock Quinn Roux was the final ball carrier for the men in green. Jonny Sexton added the 2 points for the early lead.
Minutes later it was Jayden Hayward to save his adopted country from a second capitulation and shortly after Tommaso Allan kicked for the posts after and a rare Irish infringement, but he missed from 45 meters out.
Nevertheless the Wild Boars looked encouraged by the Irish errors and pressed the visitors in their red zone for the first time.
Another Irish infringement provided another chance for Italy’s stand-off and this time Allan didn’t missed the easy 3 pointer to keep his team in touch at quarter time.
A mishap on the restart gave Stockdale the easiest of the tries, Budd missed the ball, Campagnaro couldn’t catch it and the Ulster’s winger found himself with the ball in hand a prairie in front.
Italy regrouped quickly and Allan scored a second penalty after an Irish off-side to make it 6-12.
Finally enjoying some possession, Italy was well orchestrated by scrum half Tebaldi who was quick to convert any possession in an attacking opportunity.
The Wild Boars got their deserved try at the 34th minute: Padovani crossed the line in the far right corner after a superb long pass from Allan. The kicker didn’t found the sticks and the visitors remained on top, 12-11.
Again Tebaldi played the cavalry charge for Italy and inspired Italy’s second try with a steal in a tackle on his own 22 meters, kicked long for Padovani and after a crumbling attempt to stop Italy’s attacks, Ireland conceded the major score to centre Morisi.
Allan wasn’t again able to convert, but Italy was deserving leading the match at the end of the first half 16-12.
Italy started the second half as they finished the first, keeping the momentum of the match and forcing Ireland to commit unusual errors. Unfortunately they lost one of their best forward so far when Max Mbanda was forced out due to a knee injury. Experienced Zanni took his place.
This time around it was Ireland forced in his 22 meters to crucially win a penalty with captain’s O’Mahoney. Ireland was quick in Italy’s red zone and pushed hard for a score, refused to kick for easy points to find a third try. Italy defence was again gallant, but had to give way to Kearns who danced between Budd and Tebaldi to score.
Murray consolidated the lead with the conversion in a very entertaining start of the second half.
Italy lost another back rower with Tuivaiti leaving the field injured.
O’Connor men were quick to react but, in his first error of the match, Tebaldi missed the pass to Zanni 5 meters from the Irish’s try line and the visitors gained a defensive scrum and won a penalty, the first of the match in the set piece to ease the pressure.
The penalty count swing decisively against the hosts and Ireland was asking more questions to the Italian defence when the game entered the last quarter of play.
Murray scored the bonus point try for Ireland following a maul and converted his try for a more comfortable 10 point lead with 10 minutes to play.
Crucially Italy lost their first line out on Ireland 5 meters, again O’Mahoney with the crucial turn over for the visitors. Italy wasn’t done and kept going until but wasted another golden opportunity when they conceded another costly penalty just in front of the Irish posts.
The remaining minutes did not offered any other emotions with both teams exhausted by a very good game of rugby, after the siren Irish born, re-born Italian, Ian McKinley kicked for the defensive bonus point, but missed the posts on the right.
Italy 16 (16):
Try: Padovani, Morisi
Con.: Allan 0/2
Pen: Allan 2/3, McKinley 0/1
Ireland 26 (12):
Tries: Roux, Stockdale, Kearns, Murray
Conc.: Sexton 1/2, Murray 2/2