Scotland achieved a commendable second-place finish in Pool B of the World Rugby Under-20 Championship after defeating Italy by a point in yesterday’s final group match at Kutaisi, Georgia.
In a tense game that went to the wire Scotland outscored the Azurrini three tries to one but at times lived dangerously, only desperate defence by first Blair Kinghorn, pictured, and then Robbie Nairn preventing what seemed two certain tries for the Italians.
Against an Italy side strengthened from the squad that played in the U20 Six Nations and which had scored four tries against New Zealand in the second round, the young Scots forwards performed well against bulky opponents, while behind the scrum the backs showed clever attacking skills.
The result means that the Scots, as they have done for the past two World Under-20 Championships, will play the last two rounds in the group of fifth to eighth ranked nations, which means that they have a chance of finishing higher than their previous best of eighth place.
Scotland have five days to recover from this bruising encounter before playing their fourth-round match, time that will be used profitably as head coach John Dalziel admitted. He said: “We have a lot of work to do before round four. We made it tough and put a lot of pressure on ourselves. Italy have so many strengths. We need to tidy up on our errors.”
Scotland led 12-10 at the break with tries from Nairn, the winger atoning for dropping the ball over the try line just minutes earlier, and Luke Crosbie and a conversion by Conor Eastgate to a converted try by centre Marco Zanon and the conversion and a penalty by stand-off Antonio Rizzi.
The Italy number ten added two second-half penalties before back row Tom Dodd grabbed the winning score.
Scorers: Scotland :Tries: Nairn, Crosbie, Dodd. Con: Eastgate. Italy: Try: Zanon. Con: Rizzi. Pens: Rizzi (3)
Scotland U20: B Kinghorn; R Nairn (P Anderson 77), R McCann, S McDowall, D Graham; C Eastgate (J Henderson 61), A Simmers (C Shiel 61); G Thornton (R Dunbar 66), F Renwick, A Nicol (F Bradbury 75), A Craig (H Bain 72), C Hunter-Hill, L Crosbie, M Fagerson, T Dodd.