Saturday, March 15, 2008

Italy End On A High

Six Nations Game 13 - Italy vs Scotland (23-20)

The Italians managed first blood when their pack were scrummaging well, and the Scots half collapsed - ref Nigel Owens gave a penalty try on 12 minutes and the conversion was good.

In the 20th minute, Scot Ally Hogg managed a try, his 10th for Scotland, from a great offload in the tackle, just reward for a long period of possession. Only the Scots 2nd try of the championship. Chris Paterson managed his 31st kick at goal with no trouble, to take the scores level at 7-7.

Italy infringed at a ruck in the 25th minute, and up stepped Dan Parks [right] for a huge 43m penalty to take the Scots ahead, 7-10. The just before half time, the Italians drew level once more through a penalty kick. A tense time for both teams, and interesting watching for neutrals.

Scottish Captain Mike Blair broke away from traffic to touch down between the posts just on the stroke of half time. Paterson converted to give them the advantage at the break, 10-17.

The Italians missed a chance for a penalty in the 48th minute. There were a few breaks and half breaks, with Scotland missing some important tackles. The Italian scrum was looking convincing as it had at the start of the first half. Both teams were throwing it around and whilst it was entertaining, there were alos plenty of errors and knock-ons.

The Azzurri turned over a Scottish attack when they intercepted a poor Dan Parks pass. Sergio Parisse flew down the pitch, passed in field to Gonzalo Canale who dived over between the posts. The conversion made it level pegging, 17-all with 20 minutes to go. The Roman crowd went mad, yelling "ITALIA" at the top of their lungs.

Andrea Marcato [left] kicked the home side in front at 70 minutes when Scotland were caught offside. 20-17 up, and the Stadio Flaminio went into overdrive. A couple of minutes later, Scotland levelled it again when Chris Paterson took a penalty, making is 32nd successfull kick in a row. 20-20 with eight minutes left.

In the 77th minute, Italy had an attacking lineout on the Scottish 10m line. The forwards went mauling and then it went to the backs, through several phases. More pick and drive, the clock ticking down. Canale was stopped a couple of metres short of the line. The Italians were chanting in the crowd and the Scottish defence was working overtime. Then it came back to Marcato, in the pocket for a sweet drop goal in the last minute. Italy 23 Scotland 20. The time ticked away, and an Italian boot kicked it out to touch. Once again, the Stadio Flaminio went nuts.

So, Italy won the game, and the Wooden Spoon, but that didn't seem to matter. And what an entertaining game - always nail-biting, even for a neutral to watch. The Azzurri's grins said it all.

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