Monday, 24 February 2014

Italy 20 v Scotland 21

I suppose it was going to happen eventually. I will dig through the records but a Scotland/Charlton win-double - I wonder what the odds were? Two last minute winners to boot and I was a happy man in Rome on Saturday night. 

With my Uncle failing to join me for this trip, it turned into a rare romantic weekend with my better half. We booked into a suite in the centre of Rome (good value) with historical connections and I was assured we were staying in Giuseppe Garibaldi's own bedroom. The building was once the Rome home of the 19th century General and all-round national hero, although I suspect every guest staying is told the same thing.

Rome really is a great city. I think this was my fifth visit over the years (work and pleasure) and I have always enjoyed it but I noticed much more this time and it was interesting how much better it felt than being in Paris last year. Perhaps the rugby and the Charlton result made the difference? On reflection we both agreed that the honour of best European city (outside London) is probably a toss-up between Rome and Barcelona, with Amsterdam a close third?

The match itself was again played at the Olympic Stadium as Stadio Fluminio undergoes a revamp. Given the size of the gates for international rugby since the "temporary" shift, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the Azzuri stick with the bigger stadium. It wasn't a full house on Saturday but I think there were 66,000, far in excess of the 40,000 re-fit at Fluminio

There was a predictable first-half of suffering for the 4,000 or so visiting Scots as the Italians edged things and scored a late try to open a 13-3 lead. I was expecting our hopes to be killed off at the start of the second forty but Scotland  battled back with Alex Dunbar finishing off a rare back break by getting through the Italian lines. As if surprised that he could do it, he repeated the feat with more confidence as he smashed through a couple of tackles and decided against an offload before crashing over. With plenty of time left on the clock the Italians pressed again and with ten minutes left they broke through to take a 20-18 lead. Once again a familiar feeling of gallant failure arose within me but Scotland pushed forward looking for a late winner. 

From our superb vantage point in the stadium I pointed out that we were setting ourselves for the drop-kick. There were opportunities for it before it came but Scotland were running the clock down and awaiting the best possible opportunity. With Greg Laidlaw having been subbed already, the pressure fell to  Duncan Weir. Chris Cusiter fed the ball back forty yards out and Weir showed no fear as he laced through the drop-kick and we all watched it soar high above and, crucially, through the posts. The photo here captures the emotions two minutes later as the players did a lap of honour.

I then received the text messages from fellow-Addicks that Johnnie Jackson had managed the same feat from a last-gasp back-post header which had beaten-off a poor QPR team. The win was also vital in preventing us going bottom of the table with Yeovil and Barnsley also both winning. The exciting prospect of leap-frogging Millwall and leaving them in the merda is gathering momentum.


Anonymous said...

The England/Ireland game was immense, it epitomised everything I love about sport, mind you, at the start of the second half it looked like Ireland might run away with it but all credit to this young England side, they showed great character.

I can go one better, as well as us beating Rednapp"s uninspiring QPR ( I hate Redknapo) it was also our Sarah"s 18th, we had friends over for dinner and the wine and food tasted just a tad nicer, oh, I also found out on Saturday that I've secured tickets for George and I for the Brive/Clermont game at the end of March, they're as rare as hens teeth as it's a local derby.


Dave said...

Well Paul, it just gets better tonight eh? Best see Clermont before Scotland get their hands on Vern Cotter. See you at Wembley!