Italy edge out Japan

by staff

Italy squeezed past Japan 31-24 in a thrilling World Cup warm-up Test at the Stadio Manuzzi on Saturday.

Italy scored tries through Matteo Pratichetti, Edoardo Gori, Leonardo Ghiraldini and Andrea Lo Cicero while young five-eighth Riccardo Bocchino kicked three conversions.

Substitute Luciano Orquera kicked the rest of Italy's points.

Japan's tries came from backs Takehisa Usuzuki and Koji Taira as well as a penalty try while fly-half James Arlidge didn't miss a kick all night.

Italy coach Nick Mallett's choice to pick an experienced pack and youthful backs seemed to have paid dividends early in the game as the hosts carved the Brave Blossoms apart at will.

However, they then let the visitors back into the game and Mallett complained that their defence was not good enough.

"In the first 20 minutes we kept the ball perfectly well, the forwards and backs played as a team that knew what system they were supposed to play," he said.

"The change in the first half was not in attack but in defence where we gave away many chances to their strong players.

"But this Japan team are not a lot worse than us, they're a good team with experienced players in the backs who are very good.

Japan captain Takashi Kikutani said his team had not managed to adjust to the European style of game, something they're not used to.

"We expected them to force many penalties in the scrum as they did so in the Six Nations," he said.

"We knew that would happen, we knew they would be very strong in the maul and line-out and we should have adjusted. We'll take experience from here to use in the future."

The first try on four minutes was all too easy as Italy probed left then went right with Bocchino, making his first start, playing a dummy pass and then slipping the ball inside to Pratichetti to go under the posts.

Bocchino kicked the extras and then on 12 minutes scrum-half Edoardo Gori picked and went from the back of a ruck, ducked under two tackles and dived over line.

Again Bocchino converted but Japan settled and started to work they way back into the game.

They scored a well-worked try on 23 minutes as Arlidge's grubber kick on the left wing was kicked on by Usuzuki who then touched down.

Arlidge converted and following an Italian mistake, Japan scored again.

Having let slip a commanding lead, Italy turned to their pack at the start of the second half and a driving maul resulted in a try for Ghiraldini, with Bocchino converting.

Japan simply couldn't cope with Italy's maul and from a line-out five yards out, the Azzurri drove diagonally towards the posts before Lo Cicero drove through a pile of collapsing bodies to score.