Italy Rebounds to Blow Out Uruguay at the Rugby World Cup

AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin
Italy’s Montanna Ioane, right, reacts after scoring a try during the Rugby World Cup Pool A match between Italy and Uruguay at the Stade de Nice, in Nice, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023.

NICE, France (AP) — Italy rebounded from a 10-point halftime deficit to blow away Uruguay 38-17 on Wednesday and set up a potentially decisive clash against New Zealand at the Rugby World Cup.

All the talk about Pool A has been about New Zealand and France, but Italy has dispatched Namibia and Uruguay with bonus points and has a chance to send home the All Blacks — whom Italy has never beaten — when they meet next week.

“We could not have asked for more,” Italy winger Monty Ioane said. “The boys are confident, we’re ready to take on anyone. The next two are the biggies. It’s an awesome opportunity to go against the best teams in the world. But we are not worried at all as long as we just focus on ourselves.

“The All Blacks have a crazy attacking style, but we have just got to be prepared with our defense. In return, we have a crazy attacking system as well. It’s just who turns up on the day.”

REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier
Rugby Union – Rugby World Cup 2023 – Pool A – Italy v Uruguay – Allianz Riviera, Nice, France – September 20, 2023 Italy’s Montanna Ioane scores their third try

In the first half against Uruguay, Italy didn’t look like it could tie the All Blacks’ boot laces.

After conceding the first try in a nervous first quarter, Uruguay turned the pressure back on Italy and the Azzurri buckled. They lost two players to the sin-bin and played with 13 men for nine minutes. Uruguay earned two tries and finished the half with a 45-meter drop goal.

Uruguay led 17-7 and good for the Rugby World Cup’s first shock.

But captain Andrés Vilaseca was given a harsh yellow for a high tackle and the difference between Italy, aiming for the quarterfinals, and Uruguay, aiming for a rare Rugby World Cup win, became sharply evident.

Italy pounced with four tries in 15 minutes to earn the precious bonus point and a fourth straight test win for the first time since 1994.

“It was a really tough game,” captain Michele Lamaro said. “I told all the Uruguayan guys they can be proud of their performance, they put us under a lot of pressure but in these moments, what counts the most is how strong is the team, and in the second half we showed that and smashed everything we could.

“I’m really proud of the boys and I’ll share this moment for the rest of my life with them.”

Italy took the lead from Uruguay in the seventh minute when wing Lorenzo Pani took crash ball off a scrum and scored on his Rugby World Cup debut.

Uruguay flyhalf Felipe Etcheverry dragged his first two penalty kicks wide and intercepted Lamaro but was dragged down short of the tryline by opposite Tommaso Allan.

But Italy was under pressure on its line and lock Niccolò Cannone was yellow-carded for a cynical foul. Moments later, Uruguay mauled over the line and Italy prop Danilo Fischetti was ruled to have collapsed it. A penalty try was awarded and Fischetti joined Cannone in the sin-bin.

Uruguay exploited the two-man advantage just before it ended when Etcheverry offloaded for a corner try by wing Nicolas Freitas, who by then had been playing with a broken nose for 25 minutes.

Etcheverry converted from the touchline and added a 45-meter drop goal with the last kick of the half to send Uruguay racing off the field with a 17-7 halftime lead.

The match turned again at the start of the second half when Vilaseca was sin-binned. Italy made the man advantage count.

Hooker Giacomo Nicotera was held up by Uruguay scrumhalf Santiago Arata, but two minutes later Lamaro bashed through three defenders to score his first test try. Lamaro was quickly followed with tries by wing Montanna Ioane after a chargedown by Allan, and No. 8 Lorenzo Cannone while Uruguayans were hanging off him.

With bonus-point try banked, Italy hammered the Uruguay line and Paolo Garbisi fed midfield partner Juan Ignacio Brex into a gap to score their fifth try.

Allan added the extras as usual. He has slotted 13 goalkicks without a miss in two games. When he was rested, Garbisi took over to nail a late penalty kick.

“It was a really epic battle. We gave the best we could,” Uruguay flanker Santiago Civetta said. “There were a lot of mistakes, more than what we wanted, and Italy exploited those errors. That is the explanation — they were better than us.

“It is quite frustrating to be honest. We dreamt really big about this match. Big dreams sometimes come true, sometimes they don’t.”

AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin
Uruguay’s players at the end of the Rugby World Cup Pool A match between Italy and Uruguay at the Stade de Nice, in Nice, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023.