Fri, Sep 14, 2007 - Page 23 News List

Italy grind out win against Romania

COUNTING CHICKENS? The Azzurri were unconvincing, but got the win they needed and are looking ahead to what is likely to be an elimination match against the Scots


Todd Clever of the US, right, tries to break past Tonga's Finau Maka at the Stade de la Mosson in Montpellier, France, on Wednesday.


Italy are looking past their next World Cup Pool C game against minnows Portugal to a do-or-die clash with Scotland that will likely decide which of the two teams earns a quarter-final berth.

After being hammered 76-14 by the All Blacks on the weekend, Italy made sure Romania paid for their inexperience and ill-discipline in their second match, grinding out a 24-18 win.

The victory kept their hopes alive of progressing to the knock-out phase of the 20-team tournament for the first-ever time, but it crucially came without a bonus point after they only scored two tries.

Portugal, beaten 56-10 by Scotland in their opening match, are Italy's next opponents, their third in 11 draining days, but all the Azzurris' eyes are on the final game against the Scottish in St. Etienne.

"We've always aimed at the Scotland game," said Italy's Kiwi-born winger Kaine Robertson after the dour win over Romania.

"That's our main objective. It'll be do-or-die against Scotland. We'll go out there and give 120 percent from the first minute to the last.

"If we'd lost against Romania, that would have been us virtually guaranteed out of the World Cup. They targeted us for a win, but we gave everything we had in the final 30 minutes," he said.

Scotland, and for that matter Portugal, will not be fearing Italy, who look a shadow of the team that sparked last season's Six Nations alight with surprise wins over the Scottish and Wales.

Although the forwards coped with an aggressive Romania outfit, most of whom have been hardened by years playing for French clubs, the Italian backs were woefully one-dimensional and did not launch a meaningful attack throughout the game against Romania.

Italy coach Pierre Berbizier admitted that the victory over Romania had not been pretty but that the win counted for everything.

"Tactically, we were unable to find good balance in our game," he acknowledged. "But we hope to play better in the next game."

"We needed this victory, and we knew it would be difficult. It allows us to keep going and continue in this World Cup. I'd like to thank the players who had sufficient resources to record a win just four days after the All Blacks match. We kept our chin up, especially when Romania kept moving forward," Berbizier said.

Italy scored through Santiago Dellape and a penalty try, with a further 14 points coming from the boots of David Bortolussi and Ramiro Pez.

The spirited Romania side, which next play Scotland in Edinburgh on Tuesday, responded with two tries from flanker Alexandru Manta and hooker Marius Tincu.

But fullback Iulian Dumitras, whose longe-range punting was nothing less than spectacular, missed four of his five kicks, although impressive outside-half Ionut Dimofte scored two late penalties.

Romania's lack of discipline, however, proved their downfall.

When Manta was sin-binned for collapsing a maul in the 53rd minute, Romania were 12-8 up but then conceded 13 points.

"We're not entirely satisfied with the performance," Romania captain Sorin Socol said.

"We were craving a victory, but we got off to a bad start. We are a bit disappointed with the yellow card, but have to know how to accept things and move forward," he said.

"We tried to stay calm but lost it a couple of times, and the response was not appropriate. It shows a lack of experience. I hope that we do better in Scotland," Socol said.

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