Source: INPHO

Six Nations Round 4 – The Italian Job bungled again

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A year ago I was rash enough to suggest Italy were the coming force, most likely to emulate the achievements of England and France in the Six Nations.

That hope remains unfulfilled.

For the first twenty minutes of the game in Dublin the Azzurre took the fight to the Irish, pinning them in defence as forward drives and combined moves threatened to storm the castle.

It took them nearly a quarter of an hour to achieve what had looked probable from the start, a try. Melissa Bettoni claimed the credit.

They looked really impressive during this spell, offloading with gusto and accuracy to keep the attack going and make the defences work hard. But such expansive play doesn’t come easily. Errors crept in to deny them the further scores they needed to exert their authority.

They had good excuses: they hadn’t played a game in anger for 259 days. But the Irish were in a parallel position and equally anxious to get their ship pointing the right way for passage into the World Cup qualifiers. Their lack of depth was revealed as Adam Griggs had to ask the experienced Hannah Tyrrell to step in at No 10 for the first time. After a wonky moment or two she showed the wisdom of this call, helping to bring her side right back into the game.

On 36 minutes the inexhaustible Lindsay Peat, 39 years young, was on the end of a concerted drive to the visitors’ line. Tyrrell converted.

Then another sign of Italian frailty: a similar burst by Ireland, only this time the job was completed by the constantly available Claire Molloy. If ever a player’s return to action was welcome, it was hers.

Half-time: 14-7

The second half saw the Italians less and less able to control events the way they had at the start. They were never run ragged, but lost the composure and accuracy that had shown what they were capable of. Fitness undoubtedly played its part. Italian rugby has found it hard to return to anything like normality and the lack of game-time at home must take much of the blame.

As Ireland rang the changes up front, so their pack gained in authority. With ten minutes left they drove hard to the line, but before a player could make sure of the five points, Hollie Davidson lost patience with the defence and ran under the posts. (21-7)

This must have been another hugely frustrating day for Andrea Di Giandomenico. He had seen his side weave complex patterns through Irish defences, only to lose focus and cede the upper hand.

They had the pleasure of welcoming Manuela Furlan back to the captaincy at No 15 after eighteen months out of action, but that isn’t the easiest position from which to set the example the team needs.

The coach stuck with Sofia Stefan at No 9 as she had been against England at Bedford. She has vast experience, but the need to re-deploy her there reveals the lack of alternatives available. Sara Barattin came on in the last quarter, but she couldn’t achieve the necessary.

The Azzurre do have the makings of a fine team. Young Francesca Sgorbini joined Giada Franco on the flank to provide a real force for good. But they need more youthful players of that standard to provide a higher win-loss ratio.

Result: 21-7

Player of the Match: Claire Molloy

The Ireland 23

15 Lauren Delany
14 Laura Sheehan
13 Enya Breen
12 Sene Naoupu
11 Beibhinn Parsons
10 Hannah Tyrrell
9 Kathryn Dane
1 Lindsay Peat
2 Cliodhna Moloney
3 Linda Djougang
4 Nicola Fryday
5 Ciara Cooney
6 Dorothy Wall
7 Claire Molloy
8 Ciara Griffin (C)

16 Neve Jones
17 Katie O’Dwyer
18 Leah Lyons
19 Brittany Hogan
20 Hannah O’Connor
21 Ailsa Hughes
22 Larissa Muldoon
23 Katie Fitzhenry

The Italy 23

15 Manuela Furlan (C)
14 Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi
13 Michela Sillari
12 Beatrice Rigoni
11 Aura Muzzo
10 Veronica Madia
9 Sofia Stefan
1 Silvia Turani
2 Melissa Bettoni
3 Lucia Gai
4 Sara Tounesi
5 Giordana Duca
6 Francesca Sgorbini
7 Giada Franco
8 Elisa Giordano

16 Giulia Cerato
17 Erika Skofka
18 Michela Merlo
19 Valeria Fedrighi
20 Francesca Sberna
21 Sara Barattin
22 Beatrice Capomaggi
23 Benedetta Mancini


Referee: Hollie Davidson (SRU)
ARs: Nikki O’Donnell (RFU) & Peter Martin (IRFU)
TMO: Neil Paterson (SRU)

Table after 4 (3) Rounds

​​                              P​    W​    D​    L ​   Pts
1 England​            4​     4​       0​     0​    19
2 France​              4​     2​        1​     1​    13
3 Ireland​             4​     3​        0​     1​    13​
4 Italy​​                  3​     1​        0​      2 ​   4
5 Scotland​          3​     0​         1​      2​    3
6 Wales​               4​     0​        0​     4​     1

These results confirm England as the Championship winners yet again.

One Comments

  1. Post By Mario Diani

    Hi Bruce, a couple of remarks: last year Stefan, then on her usual wing position, suffered under the Irish high ball. I suspect Di Giandomenico’s choice was also driven by the need to bring in a taller wing (Ostuni Minuzzi) to better deal with that threat. As it happened , Tyrrell had a different style of play than last year’s standoff so garryowens on the wings were not that frequent. Second, given their lack of sheer power, Italy’s major attacking threat comes from accurate passing and offloading; that worked until fitness was there, but then errors started creeping in. At the end, Italy made 24 handling errors and 24 wrong passes, much above their usual rate. On one point however I disagree: Davidson did not “lose patience” on the occasion of the penalty try. She did not have the patience to listen to what the TMO was trying to tell her, namely, that the infringement by the Irish 9 on Barattin started well before the Italian scrum started to wheel. As far as I know, (a) a penalty try is awarded when an infringement prevents a try from being scored (but the try had been scored); (b) when one infringement is followed by another one by the opposing team, it’s the first infringement which matters (barring, of course, cases of retaliation). Check again the replay and you’ll see what I mean. Frankly, that penalty try was a joke. It denied Italy a losing bonus point or even the chance to draw the game (which did not seem likely, but still). Only consolation, that game did not really matter. Ciao.

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