By Frankie Deges
Italy will play in next year’s IRB Junior World Championship having won the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy in Temuco, southern Chile, beating Canada in a pulsating final. With a solid team that performed well in each of its four games, and ably led by fullback Angelo Esposito, the Italians beat a tough Canadian team 45-23 to mark a return to the top flight of Under 20 international Rugby.
Italy made their intentions clear from kick-off. Not a full minute had gone in the game before scrumhalf Marcello Violi crossed for the opening, converted try. The lead was soon stretched by three more points with a penalty from Edoardo Padovani.
Canada went back to basics, playing percentage, intelligent rugby and making a number of line breaks, with captain Pat Kay leading from the front. The Canucks could have scored a couple of times but for the robust Italian defence. Two penalties by Shane O’Leary reduced the lead to 10-6 as teams went to the break.
In the second half, both teams went all out for the win. Italy scored first after a lineout but then the Canadians replied – first with a penalty and then a lineout move caught the Italians wrong-footed, with hooker Alex Mascott scoring in the right corner. O’Leary’s well-educated boot converted and it was game on.
Repeat infringements saw Kay and prop Djustice Sears-Duru sin-binned almost at the same time and the Italians took advantage of the extra players. From a scrum, they were awarded a penalty try and, soon after, two more tries were scored to take the lead to 38-16. When the Canadians were back to 15 they did manage a try to narrow the gap but as the match was coming to the end, centre Michele Campagnaro scored a converted try to seal the victory.
Best JWRT yet
“We did everything we could and can go home happy that we have a good squad for next year,” said skipper Kay who was trying to lead Canada to their first title at this level.
A veteran of three JWRTs, Canada coach Mike Shelley said that Temuco “had been the best of them all. Going from sixth last year to second in 2013 is thanks to a long-term project that we hope will put us again in a position to play for the trophy.”
A delighted Esposito added: “I have no words to describe this moment. We are overjoyed that we have taken Italy back to the JWC. The way the public supported this tournament was incredible and it certainly pushed us to play our best Rugby.”
Coach Gianluca Guidi explained why his team won. “We treated every game like a final and we studied every opponent to ensure we were ready for the challenges. This is my last tournament with the national team and I retire with the joy of the win.”
Chile celebrate third in thriller
In a nerve-wracking game, with the lead changing hands nine times in front of 10,500 spectators, Chile was a narrow winner against a spirited Japanese side. Both sides deserved a win but in the end it was the Chileans that celebrated with an 82nd-minute try by winger Jan Hasenlechner. It was a fair prize for a side that captivated a city and brought record numbers of spectators to the tournament.
From the start, Japan were very quick to benefit from Chilean mistakes and led 12-0 after Chile lost possession. The home side never gave up and came back to take the lead 14-12 and the change of lead ensured the game was enjoyable and interesting.
The quick Japanese backs were as effective as the Chilean forwards with both teams playing positive Rugby, leaving a lasting legacy in the many newcomers to the game in the Araucanía region. In all, nine tries were scored in a game that seemed to be heading into extra-time. It wasn’t to be and Chile celebrated a great win.
“I am very sad with the loss. We failed in our tackling but the way the crowd clapped us off the field was nice for us,” said Japanese captain Hayato Nishiuchi.
Tonga beat Portugal to secure fifth
Earlier in the day, in the Universidad de la Frontera (UFRO), Tonga secured fifth place in a game dominated by the forwards in which hard clashes were the norm. The Tongans drew first blood only in the 20th minute when winger Daniel Kilioni crossed for a converted try. It opened the scoring as five minutes later a second, unconverted, try was scored by the winners. A Portuguese sin-bin allowed them a third try and at 19-0, they closed the first half.
Portugal reduced the deficit with a converted try, but left it till too late to take a grip on a game that confirmed that both sides were capable competitors in this trophy.
“It was a very hard game but are happy to have been able to win and finish fifth,” said winning captain Vai Hausia. “Coming to Chile was a great experience for all of us.”
Uruguay take seventh place
A stronger scrum allowed Uruguay to take an early 20-3 lead and right after halftime, winger Andrés Rocco got his second try, leaving the scores 27-3. The Namibians did not want to exit with a big loss and got back into the game with passion.
A yellow card proved costly for the eventual winners, who saw their lead reduced to a solitary point after Namibia scored 26 unanswered points thanks to four tries. With 10 minutes to play, the game was there for the taking. It was Uruguay who reacted in time, scoring a 73rd minute penalty and a last minute converted try for a 40-29 that secured the seventh place for Uruguay.
Santiago Azambuja was happy with the win. “It is very hard for us to compete at this level but we managed to put our little country in the map today. We will be back two days from now working and studying, but we will take the joy of this win with us.”
By Frankie Deges