Italy bulldoze stunned Yanks
Italy used their powerful scrum to completely dominated the United States and secure a bonus point 27-10 victory in Pool C at the World Cup.
The Italian panzer rolled over USA. It was not artistic. This is not the Italy of Verdi, Michelangelo and Botticelli. This is a side that played as if coached by General Patton of tank warfare fame. It was not pretty but it was effective and there is in scrumming like this a form of art. After all the USA pack was heavier than the Italian pack but had nothing like the technique. And it was in the scrums that the game was decided, especially in that static second half of scrum after scrum, reset and penalty. Italy put the ball into 12 scrums, four of them, without counting resets, five metres from the USA line till eventually they won the penalty try and a bonus point, which was their sole objective in the match, it seems. Those 12 scrums yielded six penalties and a penalty try plus two free kicks. It was not pretty but, one supposes, absorbing for the connoisseur.
In the midst of all of this, consider the courage of the men from the Land of the Brave. Down to seven forwards against the Italian juggernaut they survived yet another scrum. But, in view of the sin-binning of a battling Namibian prop the previous day, one wonders how Mike Macdonald played for 80 minutes.
Italy led 20-10 at the end of the entertaining first half which had been a contest. There were four tries in the half, as against just the penalty try in the static second half.
The Eagles, playing their fourth match in 16 days as the Namibians had done the day before, started nervously with many handling errors to provide Italy with attacking ammunition and when Corné van Zyl gave Sergio Parisse a clever pass the great No.8 was over at the posts. 7-0 after 4 minutes.
The Azzurri came close when Luke McClean, replacing Andrea Masi at fullback, grubbered into ingoal and Tommaso Benvenuti just failed to grab the ball for the try. Instead it was the USA that scored a try.
Todd Clever won a deep line-out and Paul Emerick burst through the feeble defensive efforts of Gonzalo Canale, Gonzalo Garcia, Luciano Orquera and Fabio Semenzato before getting an underarm ball away to fullback Chris Wyles who scored close in. 7-7 after 17 minutes.
The second USA scrum that Italy destroyed gave Mirco Bergamasco the chance to put his side ahead. 10-7 after 21 minutes but, after a powerful burst by Macdonald, Luciano Orquera, back from injury, was offside and Wyles again levelled the scores - 10-10 after 26 minutes. The Eagles did not look like scoring again.
Italy were on the hunt for tries, preferring five-metre line-outs to shots at goal. They mauled a second one on Van Zyl, and then went wide left where Orquera went inside Andrew Suniula's waving arm to score. Mirco Bergamasco missed a fairly easy conversion. 15-10 after 30 minutes.
When Italy had the ball in hand they were much sharper than the Eagles and in this hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini played a big part.
Italy used a penalty to form a five-metre scrum and bashed away. McLean was stopped on the right but they came back inside where Martín Castrogiovanni scored a try, though some may question his movement off the ground to score it, right on half-time. 20-10.
The USA had some meaningless phases and the Italians some sharper attacks but in the end the half was about five scrums and the penalty try which the fourth produced. The USA managed to wheel one of the scrums but then Louis Stanfill went offside at another and was sent to the sin bin leaving seven team-mates to try to hold back the juggernaut. They were brave and defended well but eventually they conceded a penalty try, the only score of the half. 27-10 with 14 minutes to play.
Italy now had achieved its objective - victory with a bonus point - and the game relaxed.
The final whistle signalled the end of the USA's involvement in the 2011 Rugby World Cup and they will be heading home, but their captain Todd Clever, said: "We're going to be a great team in the near future."
Italy, who were playing their third match against the USA's fourth in the tournament, now face Ireland in Dunedin in five days' time.
Man of the Match: Paul Emerick of the USA, the best offensive and defensive three-quarter on the field, and classy Sergio Parisse are obvious candidates but the effective man was the Argentinian restauranteur from Leicester, Martín Castrogiovanni, perhaps the best scrummmaging machine in world rugby.
Moment of the Match: The penalty try is a candidate as it lanced the game's boil but really it was Paul Emerick's burst for Chris Wyles's try.
Villain of the Match: Louis Stanfill whose lack of self-control abandoned his teammates to further agony.
Tries: Parisse, Orquera, Castrogiovanni, penalty try
Cons: Mirco Bergamasco 2
Pen: Mirco Bergamasco
Italy: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Tommaso Benvenuti, 13 Gonzalo Canale, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Mirco Bergamasco, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Fabio Semenzato, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Cornelius van Zyl, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Salvatore Perugini.
Replacements: 16 Fabio Ongaro, 17 Andrea Lo Cicero, 18 Marco Bortolami, 19 Paul Derbyshire, 20 Edoardo Gori, 21 Riccardo Bocchino, 22 Giulio Toniolatti.
USA Eagles: 15 Chris Wyles, 14 Takudzwa Ngwenya, 13 Paul Emerick, 12 Andrew Suniula, 11 James Paterson, 10 Roland Suniula, 9 Mike Petri, 8 Nic Johnson, 7 Todd Clever, 6 Louis Stanfill, 5 Hayden Smith, 4 John van der Giessen, 3 Mate Moeakiola, 2 Chris Biller, 1 Mike MacDonald.
Replacements: 16 Phil Thiel, 17 Shawn Pittman, 18 Scott LaValla, 19 Pat Danahy, 20 Tim Usasz, 21 Nese Malifa, 22 Blaine Scully.
By Paul Dobson