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FT: Italy 27-10 USA

Pasta expert Lawrence Dallaglio is talking about drop goals, so I’ll take get down to some crucial scene-setting…

Italy–McLean, Benvenuti, Canale, Garcia, Bergamasco, Orquera, Semenzato; Perugini, Ghiraldini, Castrogiovanni, Geldenhuys, Van Zyl, Zanni, Bergamasco, Parisse.

USA– Wyles, Ngwenya, Emerick, Suniula, Paterson, Suniula, Petri; MacDonald, Biller, Moeakiola, Van Der Giessen, Smith, Stanfill, Clever, Johnson.

In a bid to seize a potentially vital bonus point, Italy have opted to field a full-strength team. Given their prediliction for pack-based ball-carrying and America’s knack for competing at the breakdown, they appear to be running the risk of fatigue ahead of their clash with Ireland.

Paaaaaarp! Loin cloth man says “It’s anthem time!”

How did Todd Clever avoid suspension? Mystifying.

But hey, things are more exciting when he’s around…


U-S-A! U-S-A!

They should sing the full “Star Spangled Banner”…

The USA get us underway with a lofted kick dowfield. Italy claim possession and begin to roll forwards.

Try for Italy! The Azzuri drive into the left corner before casting the ball wide at speed. The pass final is cushioned, popped up into the arms of a charging Sergio Parisse. The No8 meets no opposition and dives under the posts.

The conversion’s right in front of the posts.

Italy 7-0 USA

Emerick and Ngwenya combine to challenge the Italian line for the first time. It’s the first we’ve really seen of the man billed as the fastest player participating in the tournament.

(Roland) Suniula attempts a chipped kick into touch, but the ball goes out on the full and clatters off the advertising hoardings.

Italy claim the resulting lineout and, with a series of unpredictable runs, dazzle the American defence. Luke McLean slips a pass into the corner for Benvenuti, but dragging the ball back into play with his right hand, the wing fails to ground the ball.

Alan Quinlan’s criticising Sergio Parisse for being “too fancy”. No nonsense.

Miscommunication between Parisse and Semenzato allows the United States to force a turnover. The ball finds its way to Wyles who outpaces an Italian tackler and, after being dragged to ground, somersaults back onto his feet to.

Patrick Swayze (or Denis Bastick) would have been proud.

Some supreme ball-carrying from Todd Clever sees the United States into the Italian 22. A knock-on from Miller, however, sees their efforts come to nought.

A devastating Italian scrum is succeeded by a scrappy lineout and the omnipresent Todd Clever is on hand to throw himself on the ball.

Try for the USA! After punting a penalty deep into the Italian half, Clever rises to claim the lineout and toss the ball to Petri. A second later, the ball’s in the hands of Paul Emerick, who succeeds in eluding both Canale and Garcia before offloading to Chris Wyles.

Suniula makes the conversion.

Italy 7-7 USA

Penalty for Italy! Another crunching engagement leaves Bergamasco with an attempt from the left touchline…

… it’s over!

Italy 10-7 USA

Though every Italian scrum looks capable of forcing a penalty, it’s the United States who look more dynamic with the ball in hand. Breaking through Ngwenya and McDonald, they make their way into the Italian 22.

Penalty to the USA! The concession of a soft defensive penalty leaves Wyles with a straighforward attempt on goal. It finds the target, much to the delight of the United States’ support.

Italy 10-10 USA

Try for Italy! After the USA concede a penalty, Italy opt to kick for the corner. They claim the resulting lineout and drive for the American line. Preoccupied with Bergamasco and Canale, Suniula jumps from the defensive line, leaving a path for Orquera, who canters over.

Bergamasco can’t make the conversion, but it’s…

Italy 15-10 USA

Another knock-on from Wyles leaves Italy with a scrum on the halfway line. Overanxious, the United States engage early. George Clancy warns Todd Clever that another infringement at the set-piece will yield a yellow card. The flanker looks resigned…

Italy, in recipt of the another penalty, kick to the corner again. Receiving the ball at the base of the lineout, Semenzato makes a break for the line, but falls short. The ball’s collected by Castrogiovanni who bounces across the line before being swarmed by a mass American defenders.

George Clancy sends the decision upstairs, but it’s inconclusive. The result is an Italian scrum… uh oh…

The USA repel the first two Italian efforts…

… and the third results in an Italian penalty.

Castrogiovannia pats Clever on the face. The two bonded at the base of that ruck a few minutes ago.

Try for Italy! Castrogiovanni gets his score. The ball slides its way to Benvenuti on the right, but some effective covering from Van Der Giessen prevents the wing from crossing the line. Castrogiovanni claims it, however, and with the assistance of Van Zyl, who uses the prop as a sort of battering ram, succeeds in crossing the line for his eleventh international try.

The conversion from the right touchline goes astray.

Italy 20-10 USA

Half-time: Italy are turning their set-piece dominance into gold. With three tries before the break, they’re looking good for that bonus point. The United States have looked threatening, though, and if they can succeed in limiting their error count in the second half, could well drive the Italians close.

We’re underway again… with possession pinging about in midfield.

The Azzuri dodge a bullet when Bergamasco hesitates to collect a chip over the top from Petri. Emerick appears as if from nowhere and charges for the line. He can’t, however, prevent his feet from drifting into touch.

The USA steal the resulting lineout and go through a number of positive phases before MacDonald goes off his feet and concedes a soft penalty.

The USA are capable of competing physically, but they lack their opponent’s guile and subtlety at the breakdown.

Enjoying their first real spell of possession in the second half, Italy lay siege to the American line, forcing a series of last-gasp tackles and a crucial, dashing clearance from Todd Clever.

For the second time in a matter of minutes, Zanni’s interference at the breakdown succeeds in forcing a penalty.

A scything break from Orquera grants Italy the momentum they need to break for the Eagles’ line. Flowing from left-to-right, play eventually comes to a halt just inside the right touchline, where George Clancy awards Italy a penalty.

Incredibly, the USA “win” the resulting scrum, spinning the Italians a full ninety-degrees.

The next put-in, however, yields an Italian penalty.

… another penalty to Italy.

Both scrums are beginning to get frustrated, their front rows struggling to maintain their focus.

Yellow card to… Stanfill! The flanker was deemed offside at the scrum. It’s another penalty to Italy and, surely, it’s only a matter of time before George Clancy jogs between the posts.

Five minutes of accumulated pressure comes to nothing when Parisse struggles to control the ball at the back of the scrum. An American foot interposes itself between the No8 and the ball, hacking a clearance downfield.

Handbags! Blaine Scully, who replaced the misfiring Suniula, is penalised for kneeing Bergamasco in the ribs, but escapes a yellow card.

At once pedantic and lenient, George Clancy’s officiation has only succeeded in disrupting the game. Italian composure is beginning to fracture under the weight of about twnety minutes of accumulated frustration.

(Penalty) Try for Italy! The Azzuri are awarded a scrum-five after footage of what appeared to be a try is deemed inconclusive by the TMO. Collapsing under the pressure of the contact, the American front row sends George Clancy trotting between the posts.

Bergamasco chips the kick over the bar.

Italy 27-10 USA

Substitutions:

Lo Cicero, Gori, Bocchino and Toniolatti are on for Perugini, Semenzato, Orquera and Benvenuti.

Thiel, Pittman, LaValla and Usasz are on for Biller, Moeakiola, Johnson, Petri.

More subs:

Derbyshire for Bergamasco, Castrogiovanni for Perugini, Ongaro for Ghiraldini.

The United States, less than five minutes away from being eliminated from the tournament, go in search of a final try, probing the Italian defence through Ngwenya and Emerick.

Todd Clever engages in another bit of late skullduggery, taking Toniolatti out when the replacement winger had his eyes on a high ball. Italy take the opportunity to clear their lines.

A crooked Italian delivery affords the Eagles their final set-piece of the tournament. Ngwenya, anxious to leave his mark, attempts an audacious chip forward, but the ball drifts out of play.

Full-time: The Azzuri claimed their bonus point, but were frustrated for a great deal of the second half. Their final group game– with Ireland, of course– now has legitimate claim to being the biggest game in the history of Italian rugby.

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