@ the Pata Stadium
IT WAS a bad day at the office in Calvisano for Scotland, who started their season in the same way they ended the last – losing heavily away to Italy. In March an extremely muddy pitch played a part in Scotland’s performance, while here they were without key players such as Jade Konkel, Deborah McCormack and Rachel Malcolm. But, while there was no denying that the absence of such experienced forwards was felt badly, it has to be said that Scotland could and should have done much better.
Italy began at a high tempo and kept it up for around half an hour, by which time they had scored four tries and had a stranglehold on the game. They only scored two after the break as both teams tired, but they were well worth their win, as Shade Munro acknowledged.
With Canada due to visit Scotstoun at the end of the month, the Scotland coach knows that his team have a lot of improving to do. However, at least some of the errors should be easily rectified, and Munro insisted that the players were not despondent despite the one-sided result.
“We will watch the game again – but we can probably even not watch it again and still know what we need to address, what we need to work on,” he said. “There was a lot of positivity in the dressing room, even if there’s no getting away from the fact that we’ve lost the game today. You don’t qualify for the World Cup if you play like that, so something’s got to change.
“To be honest, we didn’t play particularly well right from the first kick-off, which wasn’t executed properly – we seemed to react badly to that and we never really get going. To be fair, we also need to give credit to Italy – they played very well – but it gives us what we were asking for, a reality check that shows exactly where we are. We made mistakes and we were unable to put it right and then it went from bad to worse.
“Let’s not get too downhearted, though. It’s our first game of the season, we had players missing, and it was a chance for other players to show what they can do. Some did and some didn’t.”
Scotland had a decent amount of ball in the first half, and captain Lisa Thomson, ably assisted by Chloe Rollie, tried to inspire her team-mates with some good breaks. But the pressure applied by the Azzurre proved too much to handle for Scotland, who often ran out of space and ideas against a very well organised defence.
The closest the Scots came to getting off the mark was late in the first half through an excellent move down the right by Thomson and Lauren Harris, who was just feet from the line when Michela Sillari got back to tackle her into touch. Player-of-the-match Sillari had opened the scoring, and went on to complete her hat-trick in the second half. The other tries in the first half came from Giordana Duca, Valentina Ruzza and Ilaria Arrighetti, while Sillari herself converted four from six.
Italy did concede a couple of penalties in promising positions in the second half as tiredness began to set in, but lack of composure and too many handling errors prevented Scotland from building up the momentum required to ensure a score. In the closing stages, the home team looked more likely to score again than the Scots did to break their duck, and the visitors had to play out the game a woman down after substitute scrum-half Jenny Maxwell was yellow-carded for deliberately knocking on at the breakdown.
“Confidence is one of the most important things for us,” Munro continued. “When you make a mistake, when things tend not to go well, they have a negative effect. We need to try to instil a culture of ‘don’t be afraid of making mistakes, if you do the right thing but you make a mistake you can learn from it’. Today’s been a wake-up call for us.
“Canada is one of the top four teams in the world and we definitely have to improve our performance before playing them. Basic skills, basic set piece, basic contact and cutting out the mistakes: that has to be top of our list. There’s quite a lot there, but we will also learn a lot from this game, which showed us where we have to work on.”
Andrea Di Giandomenico, Italy’s head coach, was obviously a lot happier than Munro with how the game had gone. “What particularly pleased me today was the way we played in defence,” he said. “This kind of defence is not our usual one, and maybe we have created more problems to Scotland playing a way they did not expect us to.
“We made some mistakes we need to address if we want to keep improving, but all in all I am very pleased by the performance of the team, considering it was our first game of the season. It’s a great start.”
Italy: M Furlan; A Muzzo, M Sillari, J Busato, S Stefan; V Madia, S Barattin; G Giacomoli, M Bettoni, L Gai, V Ruzza, G Duca, I Arrighetti, G Franco, E Giordano. Subs: S Turani, M Merlo, S Tounesi, V Fedrighi, F Sberna, M Cavina, B Mancini, C Sarasso.
Scotland: C Rollie; L Harris, L Thomson, H Nelson, A Evans; L Martin, M Grieve; L Cockburn, L Skeldon, M Kennedy, E Wassell, N Howat, S Cattigan, L McMillan, S Bonar. Subs: J Rettie, S McMillan, K Dougan, L Winter, R McLachlan, J Maxwell, B Nelson, A Sergeant.
Scorers: Italy: Tries: Sillari 3, Duca, Ruzza, Arrighetti. Cons: Sillari 4.
Scoring sequence: 5-0, 10-0, 12-0, 17-0, 19-0, 24-0, 26-0 half-time, 31-0, 36-0, 38-0.
Yellow card: Maxwell (Scotland) 79 mins.
Referee: I Tempest (England).