IRB Nations Cup
Despite a committed defensive display by Russia, Italy A recorded a 38-15 win in the opening match of the IRB Nations Cup 2008.
The inaugural match of the IRB Nations Cup kicked off in torrid heat at the 'Arcul de Triumf' Stadium in Bucharest. The Italians captained by their uncapped hooker Luigi Ferraro seemed able to master the high temperatures (around 30C) and took control of the early forward exchanges, despite the vigorous challenge of the Russian pack, led by example by their dynamic skipper Vladimir Marchenko.
Cracks begin to appear in the Russian defensive wall under the sustained Italian pressure and eventually tight-head prop Matteo Pietrosanti managed to break through for the first try of the tournament.
A few minutes later the young and talented Italian fly half Paolo Buso added three more points from a penalty, as a result of a Russian offside. The Russian pack continued to battle bravely, but Italian threequarters - coached by former test scrum half Sandro Ghinni - punished them again, with centre Alessio Galante at the scoring end of a sweeping backs move, which started near the 10 metre line. Buso converted the try.
The Russians bounced back with their pack to the fore and Marchenko, leading the charge, was driven over for their first try. Buso added a penalty to the growing Italian trove for a half time score of 18-5.
In the second half, although, due to a number of personnel changes- in particular the entry of the young scrum half Alex Yanyushkin - the Russian game went up in intensity and pace, though lack of passing accuracy and ball retention doomed their better efforts.
So in an almost identical script to the beginning of the match, the Italians scored early, capitalising ion Russian possession, through their right wing Michele Sepe, who scored their third try, with Buso adding another penalty. Then the Russian forwards mounted a series of effective charges close to the Italian line, with loosehead prop Alexander Khrohin going over for their second try, converted by the lively Yanyushkin.
A try by Paul Derbyshire, who together with Fijian born flanker Manua Vosawai dominated the exchanges in the loose, secured Italy the bonus point, with Buso adding a conversion. A penalty by Yanyushkin and one more Italian try by Giovancheli completed the scoreline, which read 38-15, a clear reflection of Italy's dominance and Russia's stubborn resistance.
Italy captain Luigi Ferraro
"It was a very tough match and the Russians provided a strong challenge up front. They have a formidable pack, very physical and athletic and they challenge us at the point of breakdown quite effectively.
"Their forwards scored their two tries, which shows how strong they are. On the other hand, I have to give credit to my pack, who put up a brave fight and managed to ultimately tame the strong Russian challenge. Credit also to the back division who used the ball well, and managed to score a few good tries.
"This match has enabled us to test both our match fitness and a few tactical schemes for the crunch clash with the Emerging Springboks in round 2". .
Alexander Voytov (vice-captain Russia)
"This was an interesting game, but we missed several top players, which showed in the end. It was nevertheless a very good test of our ability and we came second best. This will no doubt help us concentrate for the second round. We must work on our ball retention and concentrate on basics, to be able to defeat Romania, who are the host nation.
"The heat has been also a big factor, as it was desperately hot out there in the field of play."
- 08 March - Sandrine Agricole on France women's Six Nations campaign
- 7 March - England v Wales: Rugby World Cup memories and dreams
- 07 March - Andy Robinson looks ahead to the penultimate round of the Six Nations
- Listen to this week's Total Rugby show
- 03 March - Alain Rolland looks back over his distinguished refereeing career