Scotland U20 recorded their first victory of the 2017 Six Nations with a 38-17, bonus-point win over their Italian counterparts tonight at Broadwood.
The home-side scored five tries on their way to victory with full-back Darcy Graham leading the charge with a brace, with Andrew Simmers, Tom Dodd and Matt Fagerson also crossing the whitewash.
A flawless kicking display from stand-off Josh Henderson – who notched up a personal points haul of 13 – complemented Scotland’s try-scoring form.
Scotland also used Italy’s ill-discipline – which resulted in the Azzurri being brandished with four cards throughout the game, two of which were red – to their advantage in turning the screw at the close of the game.
It wasn’t all plain sailing, however, as the Lineen’s charges had to fight to fend off a late Italian comeback, in which they scored three tries and reduce the deficit from 31 to 14 points with 15 minutes remaining.
Scotland started in explosive fashion as full-back Darcy Graham sniped over from close range after two minutes following some excellent attack from his forward pack. Henderson opened his scoring account for the day with the conversion (7-0).
Italy looked to give a sharp reply and crossed the line after 11 minutes, yet the final pass was deemed forward and Scotland were let off the hook as the try was disallowed.
Scotland’s lineout proved a prominent feature throughout the game and captain Callum Hunter-Hill’s faith in his side’s set-piece paid dividends on the half-hour mark as Italy were reduced to 14-men when back-row Michele Lamaro saw yellow for bringing down an attacking driving maul from the home-side.
The Dark Blues – who were in their alternate white strips on this occasion – again opted for the lineout set-piece to which they won, setting the platform for scrum-half Andrew Simmers to break around the fringes of the driving maul for Scotland’s second score of the night. Henderson made no mistake with the conversion (14-0)
Italy’s woes continued and their numbers were further reduced on the cusp of half-time as Lamaro’s back-row colleague, Jacopo Bianchi, was sent to the sin-bin for a high-tackle.
Henderson continued his impressive form from the kicking-tee and extended Scotland’s lead from the subsequent penalty (17-0).
HALF-TIME | Scotland U20 17 – 0 Italy U20
Scotland got off to a near perfect start in the second-half scoring two tries in the opening five minutes, both of which were impressive solo scores from back-rows.
Tom Dodd was first to touch down in the second-half as he plucked a loose pass out of the air and broke through into the backfield before exhibiting an impressive turn of pace to burn off the scrambling defence for the score. Henderson added the extras (24-0).
Next to demonstrate his searing speed was openside flanker and Man of the Match Matt Fagerson, who strode the down the touchline, swatting off Italian full-back Massimo Cioffi in the process, to cross the whitewash for a superb length of the field score. Henderson’s flawless performance with the boot continued with another impressive conversion (31-0).
Italy, however, refused to lie down and mounted an impressive fight-back, starting with a try from prop Marco Riccioni, which Antonio Rizzi failed to convert (31-5).
The visitors were clearly buoyed by their captain’s score and soon turned further pressure into points when they were awarded with a penalty try as an advancing driving maul was brought down close to the line. Rizzi added the extras as Scotland replacement prop Daniel Winning paid the price for the offence with a yellow card (31-12).
Wing Giovanni D’Onofrio closed the gap further with a try in the corner for the Azzurri just two minutes after the penalty try. Rizzi’s conversion attempt fell short of the uprights (31-17).
Italy’s ill-discipline continued to mar their performance, however, and their comeback was soon brought to a halt as lock Lorenzo Masselli was shown a red card for pulling down Scotland’s jumper at the lineout, Luke Crosbie.
The home-side soon took advantage of their extra man as full-back Graham burst through the line at an incredible rate of knots to race home for his second try of the night. Henderson again added the extras to finish his shift with a 100% record from the kicking-tee (38-17).
The game concluded on a low-note as Italy again saw red when replacement back-row Lodovio Manni was given marching orders for a shoulder charge on Scotland’s Logan Trotter at the ruck.
FULL-TIME: Scotland U20 38 – 17 Italy U20
Updated 14:45 - 21 Mar 2017 by Hugh Barrow