Azzurri hand Scotland a wooden spoon
Italy handed Scotland the Six Nations wooden spoon when they beat them 13-6 in their final encounter of the 2012 season at Stadio Olimpico, in Rome, on Saturday.
'You have the wooden spoon. We have the pasta.' Tat was on a poster at Stadio Olympico on Saturday afternoon. It was there before the match; it was true after the match, not a great match, but a good outing for Italian emotion.
It was a match that stumbled from error to error but with the better rugby played by the Italians. There was not reason for it to be such a jerky mess for it was played under blue Italian skies in a magnificent stadium, packed to the rafters with a colourful crowd of 75 000 people. But Italy deserved the win. They scored the only try and spent most of the time attacking Scotland who were abject.
The Scots had clearly not watched Italy's defence against the clever Welsh who found Italy a tough nut to crack and so the Scots kept running at them without any sign of getting through them and without variety. The Scots line-out, usually so thorough was dreadful. They lost their own ball six times. They also lost turnovers.
The Scots were further disrupted by two yellow cards but not even when Italy were down to 13 men through a yellow card of their own and an injury to Tobie Botes did they ever look like breaking out. In fact Italy were more disrupted by injury, having to play a threequarter (Giulio Toniolatti) at scrumhalf and a flank (Simone Favaro) in the backs to complete the match.
Italy missed out on a kick at goal when Jim Hamilton came bashing in the side of a post-lineout maul but Andrea lo Cicero sought to exact punishment and the penalty was reversed. Unrepentant Hamilton did the same thing later in the match and went to the sin bin.
It was a penalty against Hamilton for being offside and playing a man without the ball that gave Italy three points after 10 minutes. In the half which ended 3-all Mirco Bergamasco missed another two kicks which an international kicker should have goaled.
It became 3-all when Greig Laidlaw goaled a penalty at a falling scrum on 35 minutes.
Just before the break Nick de Luca was sent to the sin bin for trying to kick the ball out of Edoardo Gori's hands at a tackle/ruck.
Italy came close to scoring when they made great progress through pick-'n-drive. Kris Burton surprisingly tried a drop but the attempt was charged down.
Italy started the second half on the attack and after phases hefty (well over a 100kg) wing Giovanbattista Venditti burst through ran over Laidlaw and scored at the posts. 10-3 after 43 minutes.
On 60 minutes Alessandro Zanni was penalised for an air tackle on Alastair Kellock in a line-out. (Kellock was a substitute for Richie Gray - a surprise because the big man had consistently been Scotland's best player in the Six Nations.) Laidlaw goaled. 10-6.
And that is how it stood until Italy did some more pick-'n-drive and this time Burton kicked the drop. 13-6 with three minutes to play - three minutes during which Scotland were twice [penalised and Italy kicked out to win.
A late inclusion in the Italian side was popular Fabian Ongaro, at 34 on the threshold of retirement. At the and of the match his team insisted he have a chance to say farewell and carried him off the field.
Man of the Match: For us it was easy - captain Sergio Parisse who did whatever was required with great skill. He ran thrustfully, caught high balls, was the best line-out player on the field, cleared creaking scrums and tackled with clinical efficiency.
Moment of the Match.: Giovanbattista Venditti's try - big shaven head, little white ankle-length socks, bulging bulk, obvious glee at the school and the Sign of the Cross to make him mindful.
Villain of the Match: Andrea Lo Cicero should be experienced enough to know that he is not an avenging angel. He cost his side three points in a match of not many points.
Pens: Laidlaw 2
Yellow cards: Nick de Luca (Scotland, 38 - professional foul, kicking the ball out of scrumhalf's hand), Jim Hamilton (Scotland, 55 - professional foul, illegally sacking the maul), Alessandro Zanni (Italy, 65 - repeated offences, off his feet at the breakdown)
Italy: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Giovanbattista Venditti, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Gonzalo Canale, 11 Mirco Bergamasco, 10 Kris Burton, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Robert Barbieri, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Fabio Ongaro, 1 Andrea Lo Cicero.
Replacements: 16 Tommaso D'Apice, 17 Lorenzo Cittadini, 18 Joshua Furno, 19 Simone Favaro, 20 Manoa Vosawai, 21 Tobias Botes, 22 Giulio Toniolatti.
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Max Evans, 13 Nick de Luca, 12 Graeme Morrison, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Greig Laidlaw, 9 Mike Blair, 8 David Denton, 7 Ross Rennie, 6 John Barclay, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Geoff Cross, 2 Ross Ford (captain), 1 John Welsh.
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Euan Murray, 18 Alastair Kellock, 19 Richie Vernon, 20 Chris Cusiter, 21 Ruaridh Jackson, 22 Jack Cuthbert.
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Pascal Gauzere (France)
TMO: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)