- Resilient Italy fight back at Lichfield
- Stanlake finds plenty of positives in defeat
England Under 16s 20 Italy Under 17s 24
Photo: RFU Archive
England Under 16s were edged out by a resilient and lively Italian side in the first of their two Easter internationals at Lichfield’s Cooke Fields ground on Monday (April 1).
England appeared to have laid the foundations for victory when they eased into a 10-0 lead midway through the first half but fly half Leonardo Mantelli took control of the game for Italy and an opportunist try from right wing Luca Sperandio on the stroke of half time knocked England out of their stride.
England regained the lead when scrum half Jack Maunder burrowed over early in the second half but they failed to make use of a strong downfield wind and a try from hooker Edoardo Ferraro and two penalties from Mantelli clinched victory for the jubilant Italians.
“We played some fantastic rugby but didn’t quite manage our game in the right parts of the field,” said England head coach Phil Stanlake.
“We created a bit of pressure for ourselves at kick offs and the decisions made after the kick offs. But we need to take the lessons from today of how well we played and certain things we can do with the ball and also areas where we can improve.
“Italy were big physically but they had a very good number ten who managed the game very well, their distribution in the backs was very good and at times stretched us.
“Credit to the Italians, they stayed in there and they managed the game very well, they retained the ball very well and put us under pressure.”
England will have time to regroup before they face Wales Under 16s at Oxford University’s Iffley Road ground on Saturday (April 6) and they will take encouragement from the tries they scored and the chances they created in a highly entertaining contest, which warmed a fair-sized crowd on a bitterly cold afternoon.
England imposed themselves early on when lock Harry Wilson was driven over from a line-out catch-and-drive and they extended their lead after 18 minutes when Wilson led a bold counter-attack from halfway.
England captain Nick Harris arrived in support and hooker Freddie Davison finished a brilliant move by dotting down for another unconverted try.
Italy reduced the arrears when Mantelli landed a 23rd-minute penalty, which was cancelled out by one from England centre Sam Allen via the crossbar.
But the composed Mantelli struck again on 27 minutes and Sperandio then gathered a pinpoint accurate crossfield kick and wriggled out of a tackle from opposite number Favour Maduka. Mantelli’s conversion meant it was all square,13-13, at half time.
England started the second half as they did the first and went back in front when Maunder picked up at the back of the ruck and darted over and Allen added the conversion.
But England spent most of the rest of the match in their own half and Italy punished them for conceding penalties under mounting pressure.
Ferraro crossed after Italy kicked a penalty to touch and Mantelli nudged Italy back in front and then struck the final penalty when England were penalised at the breakdown after trying to run the ball from their own line.
England Under 16s
15 Matt Gallagher (Colfe’s School, Old Colfeians RFC and Kent)
14 Dominic Morris (New Hall School and Essex)
13 Rotimi Segun (Northampton School for Boys, Old Northamptonians RFC and East Midlands)
12 Sam Allen (Crossley Heath School and Yorkshire)
11 Favour Maduka (Stonyhurst College and Lancashire)
10 Paddy McDuell (Bedford School, Bedford Junior Blues and East Midlands)
9 Jack Maunder (Blundells School and Devon)
1 Mofe Wilkey (Trinity School and Surrey)
2 Freddie Davison (Biddenham Upper School, Bedford Junior Blues and East Midlands)
3 Jack Stanley (Helston College, Penzance RFC and Cornwall)
4 James Gilboy (Stockport GS, Manchester RFC and Cheshire)
5 Harry Wilson (Kingshill School, Cirencester RFC and Gloucestershire)
6 Nick Harris (Sherborne School and Dorset & Wilts – captain)
7 Joe Mullis (Chosen Hill School, Chosen Hill RFC and Gloucestershire)
8 Callum Chick (Ponteland HS, Ponteland and Northumberland).
Replacements (all used)
Billy Walker (Great Baddow HS, Chelmsford RFC and Essex)
Alex Munday (Berkhamsted School, Harpenden RFC and Hertfordshire)
Henry Peck (Vandyke School, Leighton Buzzard RFC and East Midlands)
Garth Spencer (Biddenham Upper School, Bedford Junior Blues and East Midlands)
Victor Keunen (Stonyhurst College, Harlequins and Lancashire)
Owain James (Harrow School and Middlesex)
Alex Mitchell (Lymm HS, Lymm RFC and Cheshire)