Italy too strong for spirited Georgia

Date published: November 10 2018

Italy proved too strong for Georgia as they claimed a hard-fought 28-17 victory in their November international in Florence on Saturday.

In a fast paced and exciting game, Italy were the dominant side for most of the match and eventually outscored their visitors by four tries to two with Tommaso Allan contributing 13 points courtesy of a try, two penalties and a conversion.

The result is a significant one for the Azzurri as it is only their second triumph of 2018 and follows their win over Japan in Kobe in June.

Italy had the better of the early exchanges and opened the scoring in the 10th minute courtesy of an Allan penalty after Georgia’s backline strayed offside on defence.

Despite that setback, Georgia were soon camped inside Italy’s 22 and in the 16th minute Tamaz Mtchedlidze gathered a long pass from Vasil Lobzhanidze and showed great strength and leg-drive to shrug off three defenders before scoring the opening try.

Soso Matiashvili slotted the conversion but Italy did not take long to respond as five minutes later Michele Campagnaro bumped off Lasha Khmaladze before stepping past three challengers on his way over the try-line.

Allan added the extras which gave the Azzurri a 10-7 lead but the Lelos had a chance to draw level shortly afterwards, when Italy were blown up for a scrum infringement, but Matiashvili’s shot at goal was wide of the mark.

In the 28th minute, Georgia were dealt a blow when Giorgi Tsutskiridze was yellow carded for taking out Luca Sperandio in an aerial challenge. As expected, Italy dominated proceedings for the next 10 minutes and after Allan slotted the resulting penalty, they spent large periods camped inside the Lelos’ half.

Shortly after Tsutskiridze’s exit, Braam Steyn went over the whitewash from close quarters but television replays could not reveal whether he grounded the ball. And in the 34th minute, Tommaso Castello was in the clear inside Georgia’s 22 but instead of pinning his ears back and heading for the corner, he stepped inside where his progress was halted by the cover defence.

The dam wall eventually burst in the 39th minute when Mattia Bellini ran onto a pass from Tito Tebaldi before rounding Giorgi Koshadze and dotting down in the left-hand corner.

Allan’s conversion attempt was off target but the home side went into the sheds at half-time with an 18-7 lead.

The Azzurri were fastest out of the blocks in the second half and three minutes after the restart, Simone Ferrari crossed the whitewash from close range for his side’s third try.

That gave them a 23-7 lead but Matiashvili reduced the deficit 10 minutes later via a penalty after another indiscretion at a scrum from the Azzurri.

Italy continued to hold the upper hand, however, and in the 57th minute Steyn put Allan in the clear with a well-timed pass and the Azzurri fly-half showed a superb turn of speed to outpace the cover defence before crossing for a deserved try in the left-hand corner.

Despite that try, Georgia did not surrender and they were rewarded with a penalty try in the 63rd minute when Tommaso Benvenuti was blown up for early tackle on Beka Bitsadze close to Italy’s try-line, and the Azzurri wing was also sent to the sin bin for that offence.

With a numerical advantage, Georgia upped the ante on attack but they were met by a solid defensive effort from their hosts, who did well to prevent any further points from being scored during the rest of the match.

The scorers:

For Italy:
Tries: Camapagnaro, Bellini, Ferrari, Allan
Con: Allan
Pens: Allan 2
Yellow Card: Benvenuti

For Georgia:
Tries: Mtchedlidze, Penalty try
Con: Matiashvili
Pen: Matiashvili
Yellow Card: Tsutskiridze

Italy: 15 Luca Sperandio, 14 Tommaso Benvenuti, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Tommaso Castello, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Abraham Jurgens Steyn, 7 Jake Polledri, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Dean Budd, 4 Alessandro Zanni, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini (c), 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Luca Bigi, 17 Cherif Traorè, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Marco Fuser, 20 Johan Meyer, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Luca Morisi

Georgia: 15 Soso Matiashvili, 14 Giorgi Koshadze, 13 Merab Sharikadze (c), 12 Tamaz Mtchedlidze, 11 Zurab Dzneladze, 10 Lasha Khmaladze, 9 Vasil Lobzhanidze, 8 Beka Gorgadze, 7 Giorgi Tsutskiridze, 6 Otar Giorgadze, 5 Lasha Lomidze, 4 Nodar Tcheishvili, 3 Dudu Kubriashvili, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili
Replacements: 16 Shalva Mamukashvili, 17 Zurab Zhvania, 18 Levan Chilachava, 19 Shalva Sutiashvili, 20 Beka Bitsadze, 21 Gela Aprasidze, 22 Lasha Malaghuradze, 23 Giorgi Kveseladze

Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy (Ireland), Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)