June 18 2003

 “Italians record first tour win”

Italy, coached by former All Black great John Kirwan, were in 2003 touring to New Zealand for the second time, having previously visited in 1980, and had also played three pool matches here during the 1987 World Cup. They had struggled in 1980, winning 2 of their five matches. In the 1987 World Cup the Italians were sacrificial lambs, being drawn against New Zealand in the tournament opener and being well beaten. They also lost to Argentina but had a narrow win over Fiji.

 The 2003 visit by Italy, also of five matches, was part of their preparation for that year’s World Cup in Australia. It had not started well, with an 18 – 40 loss to First Division Southland.

The match programme.

“Italy recorded their first win on their five-match tour of New Zealand when they held on to edge a gutsy Counties Manukau side 26-18 at Pukekohe on Wednesday 18 June.

By Gregor Paul at Lion Red Stadium

In less than four months Italy will play the All Blacks in Melbourne in the second game of the World Cup. They will have to be at least a thousand times better than they were against Counties if they want to avoid conceding 100 points as they did the last time they played New Zealand in a World Cup fixture.

Having beaten Wales during this year’s Six Nations it was a real blow to see that Italy have regressed so dramatically that they now find it hard work beating a second division NPC side.

Apart from the result which may help restore some pride and confidence there was not much for coach, former All Black, John Kirwan, to feel happy about at Lion Red Stadium.

The lineout was the Italians only strong suit and they owed their victory to three well orchestrated drives by the forwards launched from this platform.

Otherwise their ball retention was abysmal, they lacked cohesion in all the key combinations and looked pretty short of attacking ideas.

First five-eighth, Ramiro Pez, has a cultured left boot and occasionally showed some attacking flair but the rest of his back division will have few fond memories of Pukekohe.

Counties for their part can look forward to their NPC season with some degree of confidence. They opened the scoring with a try to first-five, Simon Porter, who looped round to collect an inside pass from centre, Peter Epati, who had supported left wing, Tui Ta’ufo’ou’s excellent outside break.

Epati himself then got on the score sheet when he chose a clever angle to wrong foot the Italian defence and cruise under the posts from 20 metres out after a sustained period of pressure by the home side.

Pez’s left foot had kept the Italians in touch as had a try to blindside, Maurizio Zaffiri, who was driven over from a lineout five metres out.

In carbon copy tries replacement prop, Martin Castrogiovanni, and No 8, Matt Phillips, were also driven over from lineouts to leave the score at 23-18 to Italy with five minutes to go.

Counties battled valiantly for the winning score but blew their chance when they opted to kick a penalty into touch and then lost the lineout.

Certainly the efforts of captain, Craig Glendinning, and lock, Ramon Lindsay, were deserving of a victory.

Italy 26

Tries: Maurizio Zaffiri, Martin Castrogiovanni, Matt Phillips.

Cons: Ramiro Pez.

Pens. Pez (3).

Counties Manukau 18

Tries: Simon Porter, Peter Epati.

Cons: Porter.

Pens: Porter (2)

From “Rugby News”, No. 18 2003 p.36.

 Things did not improve for Italy on tour. After a narrow loss to Bay of Plenty they beat Taranaki, then were well beaten 3 – 23 by Waikato.

In Australia at the 2003 Rugby World Cup Italy did perhaps show some benefit from their time in New Zealand. They received the expected hiding from the All Blacks (70-7), went down 27 – 15 to Wales but beat Tonga 36 – 12 and Canada 19 – 14.

Back in New Zealand for RWC 2011 the Italians did rather better, with wins over Russia (53 – 17) and USA (27 – 10)

The teams.