Italy A 24
Italy A survived a second half Russian fightback to book their place in the Churchill Cup Plate final. The Azzurri led 18-6 at the break but they held on by their fingertips in the last 20 minutes to set up a showdown with Tonga at Sixways on Saturday.
Senior Italian assistant coach Alessandra Troncon: “It was a very important to win because last week we lost to Canada. Russia are in our pool during the World Cup so to win is a good. The scrum saved us a few times so I think it as key for us today.”
Russia face a Bowl final against their World Cup opponents USA and Bears’ boss Kingsley Jones said: “It’s a game we should have won. These lads can really play rugby but there was some naivety and not being street wise. But there are a lot of positives. A lot of the players showed what they can do in open space. The lineout improved but the scrum was an issue for us.”
Italy led by nine at halftime thanks to tries from Matteo Pratichetti and Giulio Toniolatti, who went into the corner after a drive and deft offload from loosehead prop Alberto de Marchi. Russia had to rely on the boot of Yury Kushnarev, who kicked two penalties and then added a third early in the second half to close the gap to nine points.
Tito Tebaldi landed a third penalty but then the tide turned as Russia scored the try of the match, a breakaway from their own 22 when Andrey Bykanov scooped up a loose ball, fed Kushnarev and when Rushan Yagudin took the ball on halfway he stepped out of the tackle and raced away.
With Tebaldi in the sinbin for killing the ball after Vasily Artemyev’s break, Riccardo Bocchino stretched the lead. Kushnarev failed with two attempts that could have put Russia right back into the game and was soon replaced by Anton Ryabov. Tebaldi missed a penalty and Russia almost hit the killer button when Alexander Shakirov made the break and only a last ditch tackle from Matteo Pratichetti stopped him delivering the final pass to Yagudin.
Russia had a final crack with a freekick which they ran close to the Italian line but they could not capitalise and the chance was lost.
Italy A: R Trevisan; G Toniolatti, A Pratichetti, A Pratichetti, M Sepe; R Bocchino, T Tebaldi; A De Marchi, T D’Aspice, F Staibano (D Christolini 47), J Furno, V Bernabo (capt M Bortolami 45), F Minto, M Bergamasco, M Vosawai. Reps (not used): A Manici, M Aguero, D Gerber G Venditti, N Belardo.
Yellow card: Tebaldi 59-69
Scorers: Tries: M Pratichetti, Toniolatti; Pens: Tebaldi (3),Bocchino; Con: Tebaldi;
Russia: I Klyuchnikov; V Artemyev, M Babaev, S Trishin , R. Yagudin; Y. Kushnarev (A Ryabov 70), A Bykanov (A Shakirov 66); G Tsnobiladze (A Travkin 49), V Tsnobiladze (V Korshunov 66), A Chernyshev (I Prishchepenko 49), A Panasenko, D Antonov, V Gresev, M Sidorov, V Grachev (capt, A Garbuzov 59). Rep (not used): I Galinovsky.
Scorers: Try: Yagudin; Pens: Kushnarev (4); Con: Kushnarev.
Referee: D Pearson (England)