It may well have been thought that the Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy, played for annually between France and Italy, would remain in the hands of the French for perpetuity then that has very much been banished, thanks to the boot on Mirco Bergamasco and a try from Andrea Masi.
The match remained in the balance at half time as a Vincent Clerc try and a Morgan Parra penalty gave the away side a slender lead of 8-6 at the Stadio Flaminio, the only points for the Azzurri coming from the boot of Bergamasco.
However with just ten minutes on the second half clock it appeared that the French were in the ascendency following a try from Parra after Francois Trinh-Duc had jinked his way through the Italian backline. Parra converted his own try from under the posts to give side an 18-6 lead after he had kicked a penalty in the opening minutes of the second half.
It was evident that Italy have developed from previous years, not only regarding playing style, but also mentality. Less than ten minutes after Parra’s try Italy hit back where they would previously have collapsed. An attack down the left wing could have brought a try a phase earlier had a pass gone to hand, however the ball was recycled and was fed to Masi who ran in from within ten yards to cross the try line.
Bergamasco slotted the touchline conversion to strip France’s lead to five points with 20 minutes to play before kicking two further penalties to Parra’s one to set up a grandstand finish with the home side trailing 21-19 with ten minutes to go.
Then, with five minutes remaining Bergamasco drilled the ball between the uprights for his fifth penalty of the match to give his side the lead. France had chances to take the lead back with minutes to spare however the Italian scrum held firm under their own posts as Trinh-Duc lined up a drop-goal before Imanol Harinordoquy was penalised for holding on at the base of a ruck. The referee blew the whistle to signal the end of the match and, more importantly, signal what could possibly be the greatest victory in the history of Italian rugby as they overcame France, the reigning Six Nations champions, 22-21.
Match of the Weekend Contenders
Birmingham City 2-3 Bolton Wanderers: Birmingham were denied the chance of visiting Wembley for the second time this season as Bolton three times took the lead in this FA Cup Quarter-Final at St Andrews. Johan Elmander put the away side in the lead after 21 minutes before Cameron Jerome equalised just 17 minutes later. A Kevin Davies penalty restored his side’s lead after the break before Kevin Phillips scored an outrageous goal when he lobbed Jussi Jääskeläinen with ten minutes remaining.
It looked as though a reply was on the cards until Chung-Yong Lee headed the winner just moments before the final whistle to take Bolton to the FA Cup Semi-Finals.
Gloucester 45-17 Newport-Gwent Dragons: It could have been said that the match was over at half time as Gloucester led 17-0 at the break in this LV Cup Semi-Final match at Kingsholm thanks to tries from Andy Hazell, Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu and Nicky Robinson.
Charlie Sharples then ran in four tries to see off the away side in the second half even though Aled Brew, Jevon Groves and Steve Jones all scored tries to save the region’s embarrassment.
Gloucester will now take on Newcastle Falcons in the LV Cup Final next Sunday at Franklins Gardens.