Italy maintained their unbeaten run leading up to Saturday's one-off test
against the All Blacks with a 35-35 draw against the New Zealand Divisional
XV in Taupo yesterday.
After beating second-division Manawatu 37-13 in their opening game, the
Italians were held to a draw through a late try by the Divisional side.
Selected from the second and third division national provincial
competitions, the Divisional side scored five tries to four, with promising
fullback Tim Manawatu racing 15m for the match-levelling try minutes from
First five-eighths Mano Flutey had the chance to win the game with a
conversion, but kicked wide.
Italy led 17-8 at halftime and were ahead 23-15 before the Divisional side
started to take the upper hand in an average game in which both teams failed
to gain any rhythm.
The Italians showed speed in moving the ball to the backline from the rucks
and mauls, and used the blindside at set pieces to launch attacks.
First five-eighths Francesco Mazzariol and wing Cristian Zenoletti scored a
try either side of North Otago wing Pila Fifita's third five-pointer, for
the Italians to lead 35-23.
Then flanker Daniel Alofa ploughed over from close range after the
Divisional team moved the ball wide twice to thin out the strong Italian
defence in the middle.
With three minutes to go, the local team caught the Italians short out wide
when their backline moved the ball swiftly and Manawatu scored.
"We hung in there but made a lot of stupid mistakes which gave up tries when
we had a roll on," Divisional coach Noel McQuilkin said.
"But in the end the five-four try count for us was not a bad effort.
"At 35-23 no one gave us a show, but I think the team showed a lot of
"The speed of the game was 10 times faster than our guys were used to.
Remember, they are a bunch of amateurs playing an international team. They
played on pride."
The Divisional team play the touring Irish side in Timaru on Saturday as
Ireland prepare for their tests against the All Blacks on June 15 and 22 in
Dunedin and Auckland.
Italian coach John Kirwan was disappointed his team could not hold onto
"We came here to play football, but we didn't play for the whole 80
minutes," he said. "We needed to close the game down in the last 15 minutes
when we were ahead.
"Against the All Blacks we'll be using our experience and be competitive."
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