Six Nations, the Azzurre ko in Wales but avoid last place

The Italian women’s rugby team closed the Six Nations with a 22-20 defeat in Cardiff against Wales but avoided last place thanks to the three bonus points collected which allow them to rise to 7th in the rankings and to separate the Welsh at 5. At the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, in front of 10,600 spectators, the Italians were mocked by Tuipulotu’s try in the 78th minute after a great comeback signed by the tries of Granzotto and Stevanin in the second half. Wales secures a first point in an orderly scrum, with Prys earning the free kick which allows the hosts to enter the 22 for the first time. The drive advances, but somehow Raineri’s team manages to stop it , then begins a long series of charges with the number of phases exceeding double figures: the blue defense defends planted on its own goal line and holds well, then Rigoni sacrifices himself on Phillips’ charge and snatches the ball from her when she is about to mark . The blue answer comes in the open game. Great action by Muzzo on the left out, the Welsh defense concedes the foul and Rigoni brings the Azzurri into the Welsh 22. Italy’s maul advances and wins two more free kicks, but then wastes everything with an attacking foul which allows Wales to save themselves. At 15 minutes the hosts take the lead: throw-in in the attacking zone, Phillips launches a “smart” on Butchers and then receives the ball again after cutting off Stefan in the 2-on-1. Muzzo desperately tries to stop the Welsh hooker, who however manages to smash for 5-0, with Bevan hitting the post on the conversion. On the restart kick of the game, however, Italy responds immediately: D’Inca’ snatches the ball from Bluck’s hands and then serves Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi’s run outside, which scores the equalizing goal. From the pitch Rigoni hits the posts and scores the overtaking. The match was very close in the middle of the pitch, with Wales trying to exploit their superiority in the scrum but wasting a lot in the throw-in, and Italy responding by relying above all on Sgorbini’s advances and the pace set by Sofia Stefan. At 34 Wales seem very close to scoring again: an advancing 5-metre melee, but referee Barrett-Theron punishes Phillips’ irregular movement and awards the penalty to Italy.


At the end of the first half, Raineri’s team returns to the attack, Rigoni pierces the Welsh defense with a good break, wins a free kick and sends it between the posts for the 5-10 with which the first half ends 40. The second half begins with a very aggressive Wales: again a long multi-phase with the forwards, as in the first half, but this time Prys does well to find the gap to score the overtaking goal, with Bevan’s conversion for the 12th -10. Italy begins to struggle in the throw-in, a fundamental thing that had worked in the first half, then George brings Wales back into attack with a splendid 50-22. The usual series of charges begins for the hosts, who win the free kick to make it 15-10. In the most difficult moment Italy finds a great response: Ostuni Minuzzi crosses with Muzzo who enters the 22, then Stefan attacks the closed side with D’Inca’ and then Granzotto, who accelerates and smashes the flag for the equalizer. In the 59th minute Butchers found a great opening, surprising the Italian defense short of guards on the sides of the group, the Welsh flanker then wasted everything with a horizontal run that allowed Italy to reposition themselves, then Neumann’s forward closed the action. On the other hand, a high tackle by Neumann on Muzzo allows the Azzurre to go into touch at 5 meters: this time it is Italy who advances with their scrum players, when it is time to widen but Stefan misses the measurement of the pass on Muzzo and the action fades. The goal, however, is in the air because Italy continues to push and in the 70th minute they take the lead: yet another action out wide with Muzzo returning towards the inside and absorbing three Welsh players, Stefan is very quick to attack the closed side again on Stevanin who marks the flag: 15-20 Italy with 10 to go. The finale is a Welsh assault: another 50-22 from Lleucu George brings the hosts back into attack, the forwards start drumming again phase after phase, Italy is saved with a great tackle by Fedrighi on Kelsey Jones but concedes a ‘another scrum for a forward. The blue pack holds, but Wales eventually goes further with the charge of Sisilia Tuipulotu who marks between the posts for 22-20 with a conversion from George. In the final, Muzzo wins a hold, but Stevanin is punished for a high tackle: Wales wins the last throw-in, throws the ball out and celebrates a very important success after a long period of crisis. Italy closes one step away from a second consecutive victory, but loses 22-20.

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