November 11, 2019
9th November 2019. Morton Stadium, Santry, Dublin 9
With both teams having already qualified for the 2021 world cup this game became a fight for
bragging rights as group winners and to secure ranking points. Ireland named a similar squad to
their victory over Spain, bringing in centre Zac McCombe and forward James Mulvaney to replace
Ollie Roberts and Declan O’Donnell.
Ireland got off to a flyer when they cut open the middle of the Italian defence and an inside pass to
Pat Moran gave him the opportunity to open the scoring. Roland Podesta converted to give Ireland
a flying start. From the resulting restart Ireland knocked on and Italy utilised the greasy conditions
to grubber through for Joseph Tramantana to dive on the ball to score a try.
Ireland then piggybacked on a penalty for a high shot and a lovely switch from Bob Beswick brought
George King on a switch and he wasn’t going to be stopped. Podesta added the extras to take the
score to 12-4. From the restart Italy kicked out on the full and Ireland took full advantage as Joe
Keyes created confusion with an arcing run and a drop off ball to Pat Moran gave the front row
forward the ball and momentum to crash through and score his second of the game.
Italy then got a consecutive sets of six tackles. owing to holding down and a tackle that caused the
referee to talk to two players. From the restart the Italians were held up the Irish defence forced a
knock on two tackles later.
The Italians, led by their livewire hooker Tramantana, setup well in attack but gave away a cheap
penalty by tackling the impressive Matthew Coade whilst he was airborne. The visiting side clearly
stepped up their defence and a huge hit drove the Irish back 10 metres.
The Irish attacked and built up good field position and then defended well to trap the Italians in their
own half, from the resulting kick great yardage by Ethan Ryan earned a penalty for a high shot and
Ireland started their set on the half way line. Ireland thought they were in for another try, before
the referee called them back for a forward pass. Italy then worked their way up the pitch and a kick
resulted in panic and Ethan Ryan was tackled in-goal which resulted in a goal line drop out. Italy
tried a similar tactic at the end of their next set but the ball went dead.
The game had settled down and both teams were working constructively through their sets of six,
with the occasional penalty giving them field position from which to attack. No further scores
arrived before half time and the teams went into the changing rooms with the score Ireland 18 Italy
The second half began with the Irish kicking the ball to the Italians and the Irish were gifted
possession 10m from the Italian tryline, when the ball carrier knocked on. The Irish themselves then
gave the ball back with a knock caused by a pass in tight quarters.
Ireland played a very strong set and caught the Italians ingoal, the fullback adjudged to have jumped
from the field of play. A clever drop out by the Italians, grubbering across field, cause the ball to
ricochet and the Italians were awarded a scrum for a knock on.
The ball was proving difficult to hang onto and only six minutes into the second half and we had the
fourth scrum. Completion rates were low in the second half and the conditions weren’t helping.
Italy earned a repeat set and were determined to close the scoreline and get back into the game.
The returned the drop out with some strong hit-ups up the centre of the pitch before moving left
with a sharp cut-out pass, before returning to a more central position but they were met with a wall
of green and an error was forced. Italy were soon back in possession as a loose pass was intercepted
and they were on the attack again. Italy then became numerically challenged as two bouts of back
chat first earned an additional 10m and then 10 minutes off the field for Brendan Santi. Ireland
were awarded a further penalty due to a swinging arm.
Ireland thought they had scored but knocked on ingoal. Italy then worked hard down the left to get
out of their half before moving the ball quickly right but one pass just in front of the half back
resulted in another error. The Italians soon gave away another penalty, for a leg tug.
The game had become stagnant as the weather, the handling errors and the pitch drained the
energy out of the players. Ireland caught a break and through good committed defence had
excellent field position 15m out. Joe Keyes met a wall of Azzurri blue at the next tackle and the
Italians ruined their superb work by standing over the ruck and causing confrontation, which was
duly penalised. The set ended by trapping the Italians close to their own line but a high tackle gave
the Italians a penalty.
Both defences had been strong out wide and neither was falling for the ball going out the back. On
many occasions it seemed like the defence had the overload in the wide channels. Time seemed to
be standing still as cramp started setting in on the players.
Ireland realised the game had to be played to the conditions and kept the ball tight. The Italians
continued to try and be creative, even at the cost of losing the ball. Then Ireland kicked a 40/20 to
put themselves in the red zone but a pass behind the runners coughed up was gleefully pounced on
by the Italians and they were back on the attack.
The Irish then coughed up possession as the ball carrier led by the elbow and was penalised. A knock
gave Ireland the ball back. Players on both sides were struggling to get back onside for their sets of
six. Play the balls were getting slower and less wrestling was taking place in the tackle. Ireland were
awarded a penalty in front of the sticks for holding down but chose to run the ball. A grasp at the
ball from a wide pass gave the Italians a scrum close to their own line. Amazingly the ball was flung
behind the winger and Gregg McNally pounced on the ball to register the first score of the second
half. Podesta scored a superb conversion from out wide made it 11 successful kicks on the bounce
and a 100% record for Podesta.
Ireland then worked down the pitch and Joe Keyes added an extra point. The game finished soon
after. Not a pretty game for sure but a hard-fought game and both sides should take credit for the
incredible effort they showed for 80 minutes.
Ireland: Ethan Ryan, Matty Coade, Zac McComb, James Bentley, Roland Podesta, Gregg McNally, Joe
Keyes, Liam Byrne, Bob Beswick, Pat Moran, Frankie Halton, Tyrone McCarthy, George King.
Replacements: James Mulvaney, Ronan Michael, Danny Bridge, Michael Ward
Italy: Samuel Dolores, Emanuele Passera, Ethan Natali, Rinaldo Palumbo, Richard Lepori, Gus
Garzaniti, Jack Campagnolo, Alec Susino, Joseph Tranmantana, Brendan Santi, Ryan King, Alexander
Myles, Gioele Celerino. Replacements: Daniel Petralia, Anton Iaria, Rhys Sciglitano, Johm Trimboli.
Tries: Pat Moran 2, George King, Gregg McNally
Goals: Roland Podesta 4
Drops: Joe Keyes
Tries: Joseph Tramantana
by Steve Hogan
Photos Courtesy Mark Willward