Tonga spoil party for Italy

Fiji Sun - - Sport -

Padua: Just a week af­ter beat­ing South Africa for the first time, Italy came back to earth with a thud, losing to Tonga 19-17 on the last kick of the match yes­ter­day. Half­back Sonatane Taku­lua con­verted the win­ning kick af­ter stand-in cap­tain Si­mone Favaro was pe­nalised. Italy scored two tries to one and had two more tries dis­al­lowed. But they started and fin­ished the sec­ond half down a man be­cause of yel­low cards. Even so, full­back Edoardo Padovani seemed to give the home side vic­tory with a penalty in the 78th minute. But Taku­lua got a chance at his fourth penalty kick and didn’t miss, and Tonga earned their first win over Italy since their first match-up, which oc­curred at the 1999 Rugby World Cup. Italy beat the Spring­boks 20-18 just one week ago but the pres­sure was dif­fer­ent this time.

Italy were the favourites against Tonga, even with­out cap­tain Ser­gio Parisse, their most capped player who was banned by the French club leagues. Flanker Favaro took over the cap­taincy for the first time. Italy reached half­time 7-3 ahead but Tonga were trou­bling them reg­u­larly. Tonga No 8 Te­vita Koloa­matangi was se­ri­ously

in­jured and, af­ter sev­eral min­utes of treat­ment on the pitch, was taken off on a stretcher, his re­place­ment Valentino Ma­pa­palangi was yel­low-carded three min­utes af­ter com­ing on for a dan­ger­ous tackle on Cit­ta­dini, but that seemed to gal­vanise Tonga and Taku­lua kicked over his first penalty. Prop Sami Pan­ico was sent to the sin-bin on the stroke of half­time for a high tackle on Taku­lua, mean­ing Italy had to play the first 10 min­utes of the sec­ond pe­riod with 14 men.

Taku­lua’s sec­ond penalty re­duced the deficit to one, and Tonga took the lead in the 52nd minute when cen­tre Siale Pi­u­tau evaded Padovani down the left and sprinted into the left cor­ner for a con­verted try, and a 13-7 lead.

Italy re­acted by chang­ing the halves, send­ing on Tom­maso Al­lan and Edoardo Gori for Carlo Canna and Gior­gio Bronzini. It worked. Cen­tre Luke McLean caught his own chip and off­loaded to Al­lan to score be­fore Al­lan added the ex­tras, and Italy were back in front by one. Al­lan went from hero to vil­lain when he was shown a yel­low card in the 72nd, and Taku­lua’s third penalty made it 16-14. There was still time for the lead to change two more times, with Italy tak­ing it back with a penalty be­fore Tonga re­sponded in

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