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The Size of the Prize – Italy v Spain

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World Cup Qualifier – Round three

Spain were right up against it. In the match that mattered most, they were meeting the hot favourites on their home ground, and their national anthem doesn’t allow them to let off steam with a good sing.

Quins’ fans were delighted to learn that Giada Franco was playing for Italy; Francesca Sgorbini had to wait her turn.

Italy started as they had against England here in Parma, all action with off-loads aplenty. On eight minutes they were nearly over, but Manuela Furlan was forced into touch. Behind a searching kick from Veronica Madia they developed a catch and drive that saw Lucia Gai heave her way over the line. (7-0)

Sara Barattin showed her vision with a sudden box kick behind her scrum that rose into the right-hand corner. Michela Sillari took it on the full to score a lovely second try. (12-0)

At this stage the disparity between the two teams was clear: Spain were less adept at redeploying their forces in attack. As they repossessed at breakdowns, it took them much longer to find an effective onward route. By contrast Italy wove patterns and developed combinations that showed the profit they had derived from all their Six Nations experiences.

Sillari added a penalty (15-0) before Spain finally got their act together on the half-hour. They had their reward for a nice move down the three-quarter line, Patricia Garcia accepting the penalty Hollie Davidson offered.

Half-time: 15-3

Spain continued this improved form; Iera Echebarria was prominent on the wing. Amaia Erbina made a lovely break through the middle to threaten the line, but as the forwards repossessed, it was the old story, ‘held up’.

The Spaniards’ failure to score there probably decided the game. Had they booked 7 points, they would have been within a single score of the hosts, and have felt much better for crossing the line. Instead it gave the defenders a drop-out on their line. The next moment the game was on the Spanish 10-metre line, and you had to wonder how fair the law adjustment is.

But Spain did achieve a try, a beauty created by a run from Amalia Argudo, the other centre. She arced left then swung back right to finish under the posts. Garcia converted. (15-10)

From here on it was frustration for them. They couldn’t gain and retain possession long enough to pose further threats. Italy went on to score a further 19 points as the opposition tired. First Duca went over, then Madia found herself on the far right wing to skip round the last defender.

The final blow came from a penalty try, as Spanish efforts failed them.

So Italy march on triumphant to the World Cup. They could set two decisive wins against that worrying loss last week to Ireland.

Result: Italy 34 Spain 10

Italy: Ostuni-Minuzzi, Furlan (captain), Sillari, Rigoni, Stefan; Madia, Barattin, Giordano, Franco, Arrighetti, Duca, Fedrighi, Gai, Bettoni, Maris

Spain: Garcia M, Dominguez-Sanchez, Erbina, Argudo, Echebarria; Rodriguez, Alameda, Garcia P, Calvo, Fresneda; Castelo, Delgado; Duenas (captain), Rodriguez, Juarena

Referee: Hollie Davidson (RFU)
ARs: Nikki O’Donnell (RFU) and Maria Giovanna Pacifico (FIR)
TMO: Stefano Penne (FIR)

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