IRB Nations Cup
Emerging Boks hold off Italian charge
By Chris Thau
Chester Williams' Emerging Springboks remain unbeaten in their IRB Nations Cup title defence in Bucharest but only by the slenderest of margins after battling to secure a one-point victory over a powerful Italy A performance.
By clinching the win the South Africans put themselves in a strong position to retain their title on the final match day on Friday, and also overcame their coach's worst fears after he had labelled the Italians favourites after their first round win against Russia.
In fact, Williams' side started the stronger and looked en route to a routine second victory, to add to its opening 11-3 win against Georgia, but again struggled to impose itself against European opposition.
The Italians provided a strong and well directed challenge but made too many unforced errors to win the match, which was disrupted early on by the injury and withdrawal of referee Jerome Garcet of France. The Frenchman was replaced by his Uruguayan touch judge Gustavo Gerbasi, who did a good job in difficult circumstances.
The delay seemed to affect both teams, who seemed overwhelmed by the occasion, but ultimately it was the outfit which committed the fewer errors which deservedly won.
With centre and skipper Morgan Newman in commanding form, the South Africans started well. Isma-eel Dollie scored an early penlaty before a sweeping back line move produced the first try on the half hour mark by right wing Lolo Waca, and the South Africans led 10-0 at the break.
Paolo Buso's two penalties brought Italy back to within four points but 10 minutes into the second half another fine piece of attacking play produced a second try for Bok left wing Rocco Jansen, which Dollie converted for a 17-6 lead.
Six more points from the boot of Buso made things very interesting at 17-12 but Dollie stretched the lead to eight points before good work from Fijian-born number 8 Mano Vosawia helped create Franco Sbaraglini's converted try two minutes from time. That score brought the Italians to within a point but it was too little too late in a breathless finish.
In the day's earlier kick-off Georgia won their first victory of the competition against the Teros of Uruguay, 20-18.
Morgan Newman, Emerging Springboks captain
"It was a very tough match as we thought and luckily we won. The Italian team played very well as we expected and the match was very close, but in the end we won by one point, and a win is a win.
"We will work hard next week to prepare ourselves and we will be ready on Friday."
- Listen to this week's Total Rugby show
- 21 April - Legendary Black Fern Anna Richards on coaching the Hong Kong Women's Sevens team
- 20 April - Tyler Ardron and Jeff Hassler look back on playing for Canada at the Junior World Rugby Trophy
- 19 April - Titi Lamositele Feature
- 18 April - Raef Morrison on living in Hong Kong and playing Sevens and Fifteens for the country