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Ireland Youngsters Draw With Italy

Ireland Youngsters Draw With Italy

Flanker Marco Lazzaroni spoiled the party for the Ireland Under-18 Clubs team as his injury-time try ensured a share of the spoils for Italy at Ashbourne RFC on Saturday.

Hoping to avenge their defeat to the same opposition in Italy last year, Ireland started the game brightly and edged into the lead with just three minutes gone.

Gorey's James Nolan, operating at inside centre, was presented with a kicking opportunity on the left hand side following a good spell of early pressure from the hosts, and he made no mistake with a right-footed effort from 30 metres.

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This was a setback for the young Azzurri side, but they were dangerous whenever they managed to make inroads into the Irish half.

They had a chance to level the contest when out-half Giacomo De Santis stepped up for a place-kick three minutes later.

He missed the target on this occasion, but with the visitors continuing to display promise as the half wore on, De Santis eventually got the Italian account up and running with a close range penalty 14 minutes in.

The Irish Clubs selection responded positively to the concession, however, as both Robert Vallejo and Nolan went close to crossing the whitewash just shy of the 20-minute mark.

Extensive pressure from Ireland inevitably paid off though, as an enterprising pass by Mullingar's Conor O'Brien put his club-mate Anthony McGivney through for a try in the right corner.

Nolan was wide of the mark with the conversion kick which was a score that Ireland would have benefited from, as Italy once more took the game to their opponents.

De Santis' well-struck 40-metre penalty helped Italy to narrow the gap, and with a Nolan place-kick opportunity falling marginally short a minute before the break, Ireland had to be content with a slender 8-6 half-time advantage.

On the resumption, terrific work by the increasingly influential De Santis presented winger Matteo Caldiroli with the chance to finish clinically on the right flank for Italy's opening try of the afternoon.

The conversion was missed and after a good spell of possession, Ireland manageed to level matters once more.

Nolan landed his second successful penalty of the tie with a tremendous kick from just outside the 22. This set the game up for a grandstand finish with both teams aiming to keep a tight rein in defence.

The sides had been admirably compact in defence, but eventually the resistance of the Italians was broken by the well-drilled Ireland outfit.

Replacement Sean O'Hagan from London Irish drove over for an unconverted 67th minute try. This looked like being enough to give Ireland a hard-earned triumph, but Lazzaroni had other ideas.

The Italian forward finished off a sweeping move across the Irish line, with Enrico Lucchin providing the assist, three minutes into time added on.

Second half replacement Davide Pasini had the chance to win it for the Italians, but his conversion attempt went narrowly past the posts as both sides had to be content with a draw at the end of an absorbing encounter.

Referee: David Procter (England)