SA Schools A lost 23-20 to Italy in their opening match of the U19 International Series at City Park Stadium on Friday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
On a windswept afternoon in Crawford, the visitors dominated the opening 35 minutes against an error-ridden SA Schools A side, which saw them race to a 17-0 lead at one point.
The hosts sparked to life after the break, staging a commendable comeback to draw level at 20-20 with 15 minutes remaining. But Italy’s star man, flyhalf Antonio Rizzi, kicked a match-winning penalty to deny the young South Africans.
The Azzurri started brightly as they outmuscled SA Schools A, who had a malfunctioning lineout, an erroneous scrum and could barely get their hands on the ball in the opening exchanges.
After a sustained period of pressure in the 22 and several missed opportunities to break the deadlock, Italy’s tactic of using their robust forwards to batter away at the hosts before utilising the wide men to pick holes in the stretched defence, eventually paid off when right wing Giovanni D’Onofrio crossed twice. Rizzi converted both tries, which was scored either side of a penalty goal by the flyhalf for a 17-0 advantage.
SA Schools A saw more of the ball as the match progressed, but their handling didn’t improve much in the face of Italy’s rush defence.
In fact, the hosts’ opening try came from a good defensive read by flyhalf Lubabalo Dobela, who pounced on a loose pass inside his own 22 and broke away to set up speedster and top point-scorer at Craven Week Cameron Hufke for the score. The conversion was well wide of the target, but Dobela added a penalty before the break for a 17-8 scoreline.
Rizzi had been punishing the hosts with his accurate goal-kicking throughout the first half and continued to do so soon after the restart with a second penalty.
While accumulating the points, Italy’s fierce defending was exceptional as they kept a resurgent SA Schools A side at bay, but the pressure would eventually take its toil with the hosts putting scrumhalf Sanele Nohamba through a gap for a converted effort. That made it a five-point ball game and the crowd started to get into the thick of things as they willed on the SA Schools A team.
When Blue Bulls fullback Abner van Reenen ended off a well-worked team effort in the 55th minute to tie the scores, SA looked a different prospect altogether as they went chasing the winning points.
They were, however, too eager to regain possession and infringed at the breakdown. Rizzi stepped up and nailed the kick, subjecting the hosts to a heartbreaking defeat.
SA Schools A – Try: Cameron Hufke, Sanele Nohamba, Abner van Reenen. Conversion: Van Reenen. Penalty: Lubabalo Dobela.
Italy – Tries: Giovanni D’Onofrio (2). Conversion: Antonio Rizzi (2). Penalties: Rizzi (3).
SA Schools A – 15 Abner van Reenen (Blue Bulls), 14 Austin Davids (Blue Bulls), 13 Louritz van der Schyff (c, Blue Bulls), 12 Sicelo Tole (Eastern Province), 11 Cameron Hufke (Griquas), 10 Lubabalo Dobela (Eastern Province), 9 Sanele Nohamba (Sharks), 8 Jessie Johnson (Western Province), 7 Mark Snyman (Golden Lions), 6 Athi Magwala (Western Province), 5 Christopher Havenga (Golden Lions), 4 Jaco van Tonder (Free State), 3 Mornay Smith (Blue Bulls), 2 Dylan Richardson (Sharks), 1 Gugu Nelani (Sharks).
Subs: 16 Schalk Erasmus (Blue Bulls), 17 Cabous Eloff (Blue Bulls), 18 Keagan Glade (Golden Lions), 19 Juan van der Mescht (Sharks), 20 Ryno Pieterse (Blue Bulls), 21 Dian Schoonees (Free State), 22 Zinedine Booysen (SWD Eagles), 23 Tyrone Green (Golden Lions), 24 Tadendaishe Mujawo (Golden Lions), 25 Janco van Heyningen (Free State), 26 Ayabonga Oliphant (Eastern Province).
Italy – 15 Massimo Cioffi, 14 Giovanni D’Onofrio, 13 Ludovico Vaccari, 12 Dario Schiabel, 11 Yannick Abanga, 10 Antonio Rizzi, 9 Federico Gubana, 8 Giovanni Licata, 7 Lorenzo Masselli, 6 Jacopo Bianchi, 5 Edoardo Iachizzi, 4 Niccolo Cannone, 3 Giosue Zilocchi, 2 Marco Manfredi, 1 Danilo Fischetti.
Subs: 16 Massimo Ceciliani, 17 Matteo Luccardi, 18 Michele Mancini, 19 Nicola Pomaro, 20 Michele Lamaro, 21 Nardo Casolari, 22 Giovanni Lucchini, 23 Michelangelo Biondelli, 24 Marco Zanon, 25 Niccolo Mori, 26 Simone Cornelli.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images