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England U20 made to sweat before sealing nervy win over Italy

Italy twice fought their way to a nine-point lead.

Hodge: penalty snatched one-point win (file photo).
Hodge: penalty snatched one-point win (file photo).
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

England 24-23 Italy

ENGLAND BOUNCED BACK, though only just, after defeat to Ireland with a win over Italy at the World Rugby U20 Championship.

The perennial finalists had to battle past a tremendous effort from the Azzurrini and edged the contest 24-23 thanks to a 73rd-minute penalty from Josh Hodge.

Giacomo Da Re’s two first-half penalties kept Italy in touch at the midway point with England registering a try from Alex Coles to bring a 7-6 lead into the second act.

Winger Cristian Lai got Italy off to a flyer for the second half as he won the race to a clever Lorenzo Citton chip in behind England. Italy ahead, England rocked and they were in danger of rolling over as Davide Ruggeri punctured their defence and slipped Ange Capuozzo away to finish off a scintillating break and put a shock on the cards with the scoreline reading 16-7.

England needed a serious response, and they issued it in the form of concerted pressure. Nicolai Stoian picked up a yellow card as the crew turned and the comeback began with Tom Willis barging over off the back of a maul.

Hodge converted, making it a two-point game, but there was more to come from Italy and they hit back one last time with a try from Paolo Garbisi. But while he converted the score, Italy would be punished for early missed efforts as the nine-point lead proved insufficient.

Richard Capstick forced the next crucial score in the left corner for England and at the business end of the match, England held firm and took the lead through Hodge’s boot with seven minutes remaining.

They had shunned an earlier penalty in the hunt for a bonus point, but in the end England had to be content with three tries and a four-point haul that tucks them in behind Australia (10 points) and Ireland (five points) in Pool C.

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