Planet Rugby

Scotland scrap through

29th September 2007 21:42


Italy v Scotland scrap

Tempers flare as Scotland cling on to their lead

Scotland have made it to the quarter-finals of the World Cup after a nerve-racking 18-16 win over Italy in Saint Etienne.

The bare-faced facts are there for all to see, Scotland advance as runners-up in the group and Italy are out of the World Cup by the narrowest of margins. A losing bonus point will be of scant consolation for the Azzurri.

For a game that offered such a lucrative reward it came as little surprise that neither side were prepared to chance their arm too much. The cascading rain did little to encourage entertaining rugby, and so it was that the game developed into trench warfare.

Italy did little to help themselves in the opening forays, gifting Chris Paterson two simple penalties in the first five minutes. Needless to say Paterson, coming into the game with a perfect kicking record at the World Cup, eased his side into a six-point lead.

It came as something of a surprise when after eight minutes Jason White turned down a third eminently kickable penalty. Mauro Bergamasco was sin-binned for a cynical early tackle on Simon Taylor, and it appeared that Scotland would stretch their lead further. White sensed the chance of a more telling score It was not forthcoming, at least not for Scotland.

Despite being at a numerical disadvantage Italy were able to score the game's only try, showing acute tactical awareness. Ramiro Pez hung a tantalising kick high into the Scottish 22 causing chaos, resulting in a spilt catch from Rory Lamont, a snaffled take from Josh Sole and a sniping try from Alessandro Troncon.

Scotland, woken from a temporary slumber by Troncon's try, began to assert a degree of control on proceedings, a David Bortolussi penalty aside. The tactical kicking of Dan Parks was often of the highest order and coaxed his hulking forward pack into areas where they could flourish.

Maintaining possession and demonstrating controlled patience, Scotland were able to force Italy into committing needless infringements, born out of frustration rather than a lack of discipline. Paterson continued to make a mockery of all the fuss over the quality of balls in the week by slotting two more penalties, to send Scotland in at the break with a slender 12-10 lead.

The tension was there for all to see after the break. The kicking battle intensified as both teams reverted to ten-man rugby, eleven at best when the centres were used to forge a few extra yards. And so a game of patience developed, neither side wanting to lose ground on the other.

Marginally better equipped to play such a game, Scotland seemed to be pulling away with yet another two Paterson penalties, but back came Italy again, through the boot of Bortolussi with two of his own three-pointers. The first was a result of Nathan Hines' yellow card for a high tackle, the second a huge kick to put his side within one score.

That is where they would stay for the remainder of the game, as ultimately they proved they did not have what it took to break Scotland down. In the forward exchanges they were outmuscled by Jason White and co. And in the kicking stakes they missed touch far too often, allowing Parks the time and space to punish them for their deficiencies.

The Scottish performance was not brilliant by any stretch of the imagination, but they have more than at any other stage in the tournament to build upon. Their line out was slick, especially given the treacherous conditions and their scrum was solid enough. In that they opted to ignore their back line it is hard to say what it was like, apart from very good at jogging up and down the field watching the forwards do battle.

Frank Hadden watched on nervously, the meaning of this game clear for all to see on his face. His nerves will have jangled towards the end of a titanic forward battle when Bortolussi's long range penalty drifted agonisingly wide.

The hooter had sounded and Italy were in possession, knowing any score would suffice for a win. Why then Troncon saw fit to chip the ball away is a mystery. You would expect a player of his experience to appreciate the magnitude of the situation and opt rather to keep the ball in hand. As it was Andrew Henderson took the pointless kick with ease and rather hurriedly made his way over the touchline to signal the end of Troncon's career and Italy's World Cup. The scrum-half promptly burst into tears.

Scotland will now await their quarter-final fate, knowing that depending on the results of Sunday's games they may, just may, have a sniff at making the World Cup semi-finals, although one feels they lack the firepower to make any further impression in France.

Man of the Match: A hard award to dish out after such a basic game, but some honourable nominees nonetheless. Sergio Parisse fought tooth and nail for the Italian cause, a shame he lacked support from others. David Bortolussi did everything in his powers but was unable to guide his team home. Dan Parks provided his pack with favourable field position time and again. Nathan Hines got through a bucketload of work, despite a yellow card. But the star performer was Jason White, ever reliable in the tight and a tremendous worker around the field he was instrumental in this win. He led with aplomb and ensured his side maintained their game plan.

Moment of the Match: It didn't come until time was up but Troncon's kick behind the Scottish defence summed up their night. It showed they had run out of ideas and were relying on Scottish mistakes, that were few and far between for once, to win them the game.

Villain of the Match: It was always going to be an emotionally-fuelled affair, as several players demonstrated as they let their emotions get the better of them. Most notable however was Alessandro Troncon's dangerously late and high tackle on Dan Parks. In his last ever game it was an act that he will want to forget it what has otherwise been an illustrious career for club and country.

The scorers:

For Scotland:

Pens: Paterson 6

For Italy:

Try: Troncon

Con: Bortolussi

Pens: Bortolussi 2

Yellow cards: Mauro Bergamasco (8, Italy, professional foul), Hines (55, Scotland, high tackle)

Scotland: 15 Rory Lamont, 14 Sean Lamont, 13 Simon Webster, 12 Rob Dewey, 11 Chris Paterson, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Mike Blair, 8 Simon Taylor, 7 Allister Hogg, 6 Jason White, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Nathan Hines, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Gavin Kerr.

Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Craig Smith, 18 Scott MacLeod, 19 Kelly Brown, 20 Chris Cusiter, 21 Andrew Henderson, 22 Hugo Southwell.

Italy: 15 David Bortolussi, 14 Kaine Robertson, 13 Gonzalo Canale, 12 Mirco Bergamasco, 11 Andrea Masi, 10 Ramiro Pez, 9 Alessandro Troncon (c), 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Josh Sole, 5 Carlo Del Fava, 4 Santiago Dellapè, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Carlo Festuccia, 1 Salvatore Perugini.

Replacements: 16 Fabio Ongaro, 17 Andrea Lo Cicero, 18 Valerio Bernabò, 19 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 20 Paul Griffen, 21 Roland de Marigny, 22 Ezio Galon.

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan

Touch judges: Wayne Barnes, Hugh Watkins

Television match official: Dave Pearson

Assessor: Bob Francis

By Marcus Leach

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