Italy beat Romania 32-22 in Exeter to finish third in Pool D and qualify for the 2019 World Cup. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
The Azzurri, who pushed Ireland all the way in a 16-9 defeat last week, had little trouble dispatching a Romanian side that had come into this match full of confidence following their 17-15 win against Canada.
Flyhalf Tommy Allan was the star for his side, scoring a try, having a hand in another, and kicking well for goal.
Romania made an early statement when they smashed Italy at the first scrum to win a penalty, which Florin Vlaicu sent between the uprights, but it wasn't a sign of things to come.
The Azzurri almost hit back immediately, when Edoardo Gori broke away from a lineout on halfway and chipped the ball over the last defender only to knock on over the line.
It didn't prove costly, though, as Italy opened their account four minutes later, after kicking a penalty into touch and setting up a lineout driving maul. Allan then sent the ball wide to Michele Campagnaro, who drew a couple of defenders before sending Leonardo Sarto over in the left-hand corner.
The Oaks were then reduced to 14 men when Pretoria-born lock Johannes van Heerden was yellow-carded for a cynical breakdown infringement, and Allan slotted the penalty.
By now Italy had started to dominate at scrum-time, and they used it as a platform from which to score their second try. While Romania were able to get a good shove 5m out from their line, they couldn't prevent Gori from darting over from the resultant ruck.
Italy did well to keep their tryline intact during an eight-minute period when Romania bashed away with their forwards.
The Azzurri then scored a converted try at the other end, in the last play of the first half, with Allan receiving possession on the opposition 10m line after a wrap-around and bursting through a gap.
And they struck again five minutes into the second half when Alessandro Zanni went over from another dominant scrum to make it 29-3.
To their credit, Romania fought their way back into the game and were rewarded in the 65th minute when Adrian Apostol barged his way over from close range.
Allan's second penalty ended any slim hopes the Oaks may have had of staging a miraculous comeback, but there was still time for them to score another two tries, through Valentin Poparlan and Apostol, which added a lot of respectability to the scoreline.
Italy – Tries: Leonardo Sarto, Edoardo Gori, Tommy Allan, Alessandro Zanni. Conversions: Tommy Allan (3). Penalties: Allan (2).
Romania – Tries: Adrian Apostol (2), Valentin Poparlan. Conversion: Florin Vlaicu (2). Penalty: Vlaicu.
Italy – 15 Luke McLean, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Tommaso Benvenuti, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Tommy Allan, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Alessandro Zanni, 7 Simone Favaro, 6 Francesco Minto, 5 Josh Furno, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys (c), 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Andrea Manici, 1 Matias Aguero.
Subs: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Alberto De Marchi, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Valerio Bernabò, 20 Samuela Vunisa, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Enrico Bacchin.
Romania – 15 Catalin Fercu, 14 Madalin Lemnaru, 13 Paula Kinikinilau, 12 Florin Vlaicu, 11 Ionut Botezatu, 10 Michael Wiringi, 9 Valentin Calafeteanu, 8 Daniel Carpo/Mihai Macovei, 7 Viorel Lucaci, 6 Valentin Ursache (c), 5 Johannes van Heerden, 4 Valentin Poparlan, 3 Paulica Ion, 2 Otar Turashvili, 1 Mihaita Lazar.
Subs: 16 Andrei Radoi, 17 Andrei Ursache, 18 Horatiu Pungea, 19 Marius Antonescu, 20 Stelian Burcea, 21 Tudorel Bratu, 22 Adrian Apostol, 23 Csaba Gal.
Photo: Paul Gilham/Getty Images