Scotland Under-20s coach Bryan Redpath described last night’s heartbreaking one-point defeat to Italy in their World Championship opener as a “brutal lesson” for his young charges.
The Scots played some excellent rugby in Beziers but, ultimately, some lapses in concentration and the greater physicality of the opposition told at the death as Italy mauled over for a try with the last move of the match.
“It is a huge disappointment for the boys and myself,” said Redpath, pictured, who must now pick his squad up for further Pool B matches against Argentina on Sunday and England a week today.
“I thought they were outstanding for 90 per cent of the match, but there were three instances we didn’t manage to get right in the final five minutes and we learned tonight that you pay a heavy price for things like that at this level.
“I’ve been brutally honest with the boys about that being a lesson in the reality of senior, international rugby.
“I can’t question their work-ethic and desire. We led that game for 75 minutes. We were the better team overall, but we didn’t get out of the game what we put into it.”
Against opponents the Scots had lost to in the junior Six Nations it was important to make a good start and they duly dominated the opening ten minutes.
Charlie Chapman was wayward with one shot at goal before making no mistake in the ninth minute to open the scoring.
The big, physical Azzurini pack were being forced into indiscipline by the busy start but they gradually tightened up their act and Antonio Rizzi levelled the scores after an offside penalty. The Scots steadied the ship, with Chapman and stand-off Ross Thompson pulling the strings.
The Italians came again, though, and a decision to spurn a shot at goal was rewarded as the subsequent scrum had the Scots in all sorts of trouble and a penalty try was given.
The response was instant as the impressive Currie Chieftains centre Cammy Hutchison, who missed the Six Nations after suffering an ACL injury at last year’s World Championship, made a barnstorming break.
The field position was well used as a superb drive from the lineout saw Ross Dunbar finish off the pushover. Chapman couldn’t convert from wide but it was the lively scrum-half who got the next score as Scotland finally spotted the right option after putting the Italians in all sorts of trouble and the Gloucester player jinked over down the right.
The Italians were reduced to 14 men through a sin-binning but, again, the conversion was wayward meaning the lead was only 13-7 at the break.
The Scots started the second period very strongly and looked good when, after Chapman had pinged over another penalty, they scored a magnificent try to push the lead out to 13 points.
Skipper Stafford McDowall sparked the move down the left with a powerful surge and deft offload. Then it was left to full-back Paddy Dewhirst and wing Kyle Rowe to combine brilliantly with a slick 1-2, which was finished by the former and the try was converted by Chapman.
What had been a tight battle suddenly opened up, however, and the comfortable cushion was swiftly lost as centre Giovanni D’onofrio picked up beautifully from a kick ahead to swoop under the posts.
Chapman released some pressure with a penalty but, when powerful winger Alessandro Forcucchi barged over in the right-hand corner it was down to a four-point game.
The last ten minutes proved tense but the young Scots seemed to be holding out until the late drama. They found themselves sucked into a vicious cycle of scrum penalty then lineout mauls and penalty advantages which marched them back to their line. When sub prop Sam Grahamslaw was sin-binned after a third maul was downed the loss of his ballast proved decisive as the Italians rumbled over, sub hooker Niccolò Taddia getting the touchdown.