Tommaso Benvenuti captained Italy to the JWRT crown and had graduated to the Azzurri ranks by the end of the year - Photo:

Italy may have already been guaranteed a return to the IRB Junior World Championship in 2011 as hosts of the IRB’s premier age grade tournament, but they were determined to take their place among the world’s elite nations at Under 20 level in their own right as IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2010 winners.

Their intentions to claim the title were evident on day one in the Russian capital of Moscow when Papua New Guinea were cast aside 74-0 with defending champions Romania then beaten 30-7 in Pool A of what was a hugely competitive tournament with Japan, Canada and Uruguay also having played in last year’s Junior World Championship.

Uruguay, the inaugural Trophy winners in 2008, proved a sterner test and it was only a penalty try awarded at the death that enabled Italy to snatch a 16-12 victory and take their place in the final against Japan, the Pool B winners who also had to battle hard to reach the title decider.

Japan had kicked off their own campaign with a 31-17 defeat of Russia, before being held to an exciting 20-20 draw by a lively and talented Zimbabwe team. Canada stood in their way on the last round of pool matches, but a try-blitz either side of half-time saw the Asian champions to a 38-17 win.


Antonio Denti scores one of Italy's tries in the final - Photo: Stanislav Kolpakov

The final of the first IRB 15-a-side tournament to be played in Russia took place at the Slava Stadium on 30 May with Tommaso Benvenuti, the dashing outside centre who plays for Benetton Treviso and was one of 14 veterans of the JWC 2009 squad present in Moscow, opening the scoring with a second minute try to calm any Italian nerves.

Antonio Denti touched down a second before the clock had reached 10 minutes with an Alberto Chillon penalty giving Italy a 15-0 half-time lead. A similar start to the second half, with tries from Michele Mortali and Gabriele Cicchinelli, put the title beyond reach of the gallant Japanese despite a late consolation try from Mao Enoki making the final score 36-7.

“We wanted badly to win this match, not only because we wanted to return to the World Championship section, but also because we wanted to qualify by right, not by default, as the next World Championship will be held in Italy next year,” admitted captain Benvenuti.

“We did not do ourselves justice against Uruguay and after the match we spoke together and tonight was very much a reaction to the poor game against Uruguay. We had a new game plan and a new approach, which surprised the Japanese. I am delighted for my team and I am very proud of them."

Japan may have missed out on the title, but manager Takashi Hasunuma knows the importance of the tournament for the next generation of Brave Blossoms. “Many of these boys will form the core of the Japan team who compete in Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan. This is why the tournament is very important for us in so many ways.” One of those players could well be Takaaki Nakazuru, the top try-scorer.


Russia were the surprise package of the tournament - Photo: Stanislav Kolpakov

In the third place play-off, Russia confirmed their status as the surprise package of the tournament by defeating Romania 23-20 in a match which made history as the first 15-a-side international match to be decided via nail-biting sudden-death extra-time.

Russia played their dynamic game, based on a well-drilled pack with back row twins Veniamin and Yuri Vengerov proving adept at being in the right place at the right time. The scores were locked at 20-20 when fly-half Denis Kukishev kept his cool, landing the penalty which secured third place.

Romania’s Gabriel Conache was left to rue missed opportunities, which included six penalty attempts and a conversion in normal time, not to mention a drop-goal in extra-time, to allow Kukishev to be the match-winner and secure a third place which coach Andrey Cherevichny labelled “a good springboard for the future”.

The fifth place play-off between Uruguay and Canada was an equally tight affair with a last minute penalty by Agustin Ormaechea, the youngest son of Los Teros’ legend Diego, securing a 13-11 victory for the former champions. Canada had led 11-3 only for Guzman Carissimi’s try to begin the Uruguay revival.

Zimbabwe also finished the tournament with a 46-22 victory over Papua New Guinea in an attractive match, full of open, running rugby. The African champions, playing in their first Trophy ran in six tries in all, including a brace by number 8 Marco Mama, to finish seventh.

RESULTS

Pool A

Italy 74-0 Papua New Guinea
Uruguay 12-15 Romania
Uruguay 42-14 Papua New Guinea
Italy 30-7 Romania
Romania 48-12 Papua New Guinea
Italy 16-12 Uruguay

Pool B

Canada 22-6 Zimbabwe
Russia 17-31 Japan
Japan 20-20 Zimbabwe
Russia 17-15 Canada
Russia 21-19 Zimbabwe
Canada 17-38 Japan

Seventh Place Play-off: Papua New Guinea 22-46 Zimbabwe

Fifth Place Play-off: Uruguay 13-11 Canada

Third Place Play-off: Romania 20-23 Russia

FINAL: Italy 36-7 Japan