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Canada left to rue missed chances as Italy narrowly avoid scare

Kieran Crowley’s side made this a thrilling encounter in Leeds.

Image: Nigel French

Italy 23

Canada 18

ITALY SURVIVED A major scare from a Canada side brimming with attacking intent in today’s Pool D encounter in Leeds.

The Canucks created numerous brilliant try-scoring opportunities and managed to finish off one in each half. The Europeans trailed for 15 minutes of the second period and even after Gonzalo Garcia edged them back into the lead, the Azzurri could only truly feel assured of the win when Tommy Allan kicked a last-minute penalty to make the final deficit five points.

After a relatively tentative opening 10 minutes, the game was kick-started when the sides traded brilliant scored from DTH Van der Merwe and Michele Rizzo between the 15th and 17th minute.

The game burst in to life when Nathan Hirayama chipped in behind the Italian defence to force Luke McLean in to a scrambling recover. Canada forced a turnover scrum and from there, threatened the line with powerful carries. A loose wide pass from Hirayama meant they would settle for just a penalty to open the scoring on 14 minutes, and that was like the first crack in the floodgate as the scores came thick and fast in the two minutes that followed.

Britain Rugby WCup Italy Canada Source: Alastair Grant

Van der Merwe collected Allan’s restart in his own 22, but with two powerful hand-offs rapidly ate up 40 metres on the left touchline. Scarlets’ new recruit cut inside beautifully and found centre Ciaran Hearn with a well-weighted pass.

Hearn took the ball on an excellent line, but returned the favour by passing to Van der Merwe on an even better scything left to right line than cut out the final two defenders.

At 10 – 0 up, Canada could dare to dream, but a mazy run from scrum-half Edoardo Gori quickly yanked them down the the Elland Road turf. The scrum-half broke in midfield and kept defenders guessing as he plotted his way upfield. Once caught in the 22, Gori ensured the move wouldn’t die by popping the ball up to loosehead Rizzo who forced his way to the try-line.

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2015 - Pool D - Italy v Canada - Elland Road Source: Nigel French

Two tries in two minutes. And Italy would soon be level at 10  - 10 with Allan converting a penalty forced by the Azzurri pack.

Both sides missed penalties to sneak an advantage before the break, Italy’s miss coming from Carlo Canna on as a replacement for Allan. After going full-stretch to almost touch down in the corner, Canna was called ashore allowing Allan split the posts with a penalty to give Jacques Brunel’s men the advantage on the stroke of half-time.

The start of second half was adorned by another quick double helping of excellent tries. This time both were created by Canada. The crucial difference, however, was that only one counted.

Matt Evans took advantage of some weak Italian tackling 30 metres out. The fullback shrugged off the tackles and showed terrific pace to power his way in to the left corner.

Ardron carried the fight back Italy’s way and Canada again took advantage of quick ball to generate an overlap on the right. Unfortunately for winger Phil MacKenzie, his excellent finish of the move counted for nothing as the TMO ruled the tipped pass to him as forward.

Kieran Crowley’s men didn’t quite find that spark again, but they did force Italy in to long defensive shifts without the ball.

Britain Rugby WCup Italy Canada Source: AP/Press Association Images

Without the ruthless cutting edge to really punish a poor Italian performance, and with Hirayama missing the touchline conversion, Italy were still right in touch and – sure enough – were back in the lead before the hour. A short line-out caught Canada cold, allowing Ghiraldini to steal 10 metres and set Italy up close to the try-line. Three solid carries later the gap opened up and Gonzalo Garcia was able to flip over for an easy score which Allan converted to push the Six Nations side 20 – 15 ahead.

Canada continued to trouble the Six Nations side and could have claimed a famous win with a more aggressive approach in the red zone. Replacement flanker Kyle Gilmour had a golden opportunity to slip Hearn in for a try when Canada stretched Italy to near breaking point on their five-metre line. The flanker went to ground, and instead Tyler Ardron opted to kick at goal to narrow the gap to two points to set up a tense final 10 minutes.

Italy’s experience and dominant pack told in that period, ensuring the game would be played deep in Canadian territory until Allan could kill the last minute of regulation time with a penalty to make it a five-point win for the Azzurri.

Scorers

Italy

Try: M Rizzo, G Garcia

Conversion: T Allan (2)

Penalty: T Allan (3)

Canada

Tries: DTH van der Merwe,  M Evans

Conversion: N Hirayama

Penalty: N Hirayama (2)

Italy

15 Luke McLean
14 Leonardo Sarto
13 Tommaso Benvenuti
12 Gonzalo Garcia
11 Giovanbattista Venditti
10 Tommaso Allan
9 Edoardo Gori

1 Michele Rizzo
2 Leonardo Ghiraldini (captain)
3 Lorenzo Cittadini
4 Quintin Geldenhuys
5 Josh Furno
6 Alessandro Zanni
7 Francesco Minto
8 Samuela Vunisa

Replacements

16 Davide Giazzon
17 Matias Aguero
18 Martin Castrogiovanni
19 Marco Fuser
20 Mauro Bergamasco
21 Guglielmo Palazzani
22 Carlo Canna
23 Michele Campagnaro

Canada

15 Matt Evans
14 Phil Mackenzie
13 Ciaran Hearn
12 Connor Braid
11 DTH Van Der Merwe
10 Nathan Hirayama
9 Jamie Mackenzie

1 Hubert Buydens
2 Ray Barkwill
3 Doug Wooldridge
4 Jebb Sinclair
5 Jamie Cudmore
6 Nanyak Dala
7 John Moonlight
8 Tyler Ardron (captain)

Replacements

16 Aaron Carpenter
17 Djustice Sears-Duru
18 Andrew Tiedemann
19 Evan Olmstead
20 Kyle Gilmour
21 Phil Mack
22 Conor Trainor
23 Harry Jones

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Sean Farrell

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