Fontana (4), Ilinca (9), Saltonstall (20), Celerino (25), Vitalini (29), De Meyer (33), Nasso (63)
Ososkov (46), Grigorev (56), Lysokon (69)
Fontana 2/4, Peens 3/3
Russia will have to wait until they face holders Germany in August if they are to lift the European Shield after defeat in Italy. The table toppers were overwhelmed in the first half by the confident hosts, the Azzurri romping to a 32-0 lead by the break courtesy of six tries, all from different scorers. Hookers Ray Nasso and substitute Chris De Meyer were near unstoppable running out of dummy half to establish field position while teenage second rower Gioele Celerino was a constant handful and Chris Vitalini a rock on defence.
Italy coach Paul Broadbent was highly satisfied with the comprehensive victory. “We played some really good rugby,” he said. “We have made the World Cup part of our preparation, everyone knows that if they perform they have a chance of gaining a spot in the squad. The guys showed real commitment and whether or not they make it, they want to finish the Shield well.”
His side moved above Serbia into second place on point’s difference, four behind the Russians but Broadbent was more impressed with the overall progress that has been made. “I’m very proud considering where we were two years ago,” he added. “We went through some tough times but the players dug deep, upped the intensity and came through the other side. It’s now a quality rugby league outfit.”
Broadbent could not have asked for a better start, scrum half Remi Fontana sniping over in the fourth minute and converting his own try. Winger Octavian Ilinca found space out wide soon after to cross, Fontana missing with the conversion. Russia then enjoyed a dominant spell, camping on the home line for eight minutes but could not breach the blue wall, Warrington Wolves youngster James Saltonstall breaking the siege with a third Italian try out wide.
Fontana missed the conversion but was on target in the 25th minute after Celerino’s deserved score; Vitalini over on the half hour, Gert Peens converting. Seven minutes before the break, De Meyer went in from dummy half, Peens goaling to maintain the point-a-minute spree.
Russia came out more like the side that had seen them unbeaten in their opening four matches of the tournament at the start of the second half. Skipper Aleksandr Lysokon’s long pass put half back partner Eduard Ososkov in for a try, Lysokon adding the extras and, in the 56th minute, prop Anatoly Grigorev powered his way over, Lysokon with the goal to make it 32-12.
Nasso’s scoot and Peens’ third conversion just after the hour secured victory for the Italians, Lysokon with a try and goal for a ten point haul completing the scoring as the home side’s discipline let them down after the break, conceding ten penalties. Injuries meant that from early in the second half, Russia effectively had one substitute which made their revival the more impressive.
Bears second rower Grigory Esin acknowledged that his side was second best. “It was a tough game,” he said. “We were a bit nervous at the start and blew a lot of chances. In the second half we regrouped and told each other that we had to win that which we did but we had given ourselves too much to do.”
Pictured: Ray Nasso led Italy from the front.
Fabrizio Ciaurro, Octavian Ilinca, Christophe Calegari, James Saltenstall, Rodrigo Marchesi, Pierangelo Ceretti, Remi Fontana, Chris Vitalini, Ray Nasso (c), Cedric Prizzon, Gioele Celerino, Davide Rancati, Jonathon Marcinczak. Subs: Drake Muyodi, Chris De Meyer, Ivan Barani, Gert Peens
Maksim Suchkov, Rustam Bulanov, Igor Chuprin, Alexey Mikhaylov, Dmitriy Bratko, Aleksandr Lysokon (c), Eduard Ososkov, Konstantin Roschin, Vladimir Vlasyuk, Anatoly Grigorev, Vadim Fedchuk, Grigory Esin, Kirill Nechaev. Subs: Denis Chuprin, Sergey Beliavskiy, Alexey Nikolaev, Andrey Sevostianov