(Houston) Poor setpieces and limited attacking penetration squelched America's upset hopes in Saturday's 30-10 loss to Italy, a scoreline that understates the visitors' dominance.
Played before a record crowd in atrocious weather, the end-of-season match also showed up the hosts' kicking game. Visiting flyhalf Riccardo Bocchino hit 5 of 6 chances for 13 points and was more effective from hand than Eagle fullback Chris Wyles, while Roland Suniula offered no tactical threat.
Though the game was tied at 10 after 28 minutes, the combination of shortcomings meant the US infrequently approached the Italian 22 or otherwise pressured a side chock with 8 changes from last week's 25-16 win over Canada. The second-half dismissal of both Eagle midfielders -- which looks to be an embarassing first in international play -- sealed the outcome.
However spirited the American defense, the score was kept down by 96-degree BBVA Compass field and a lackluster Italian backline, vividly portrayed as 'bumbling clerks' by La Repubblica. (Agence France-Presse reported more directly: 'Italy thrash USA'.)
Italy's Carlo Festuccia opened the affair at 3 minutes by collecting the ball from Todd Clever, attempting to clean up Chris Biller's lineout overthrow deep in the US end, and racing in for a simple touchdown.
Wyles replied at 11 minutes, following a productive series of forward charges. But inside center Andrew Suniula gave away a penalty at the following kickoff, goaled by Bocchino. At the very next restart, the Italians returned the favor but Wyles missed, extending last week's scratchy form.
Paul Emerick then scored a well-worked try at 28 minutes. Running onto a delayed pass from Roland Suniula, who turned second-phase possession into a half break, Emerick scored his sixteenth test try while breathing life into a boisterous Texan audience.
Bocchino quickly restored the Italians to the lead with a second penalty goal, before the Azzuri pushed the US off its scrum feed and halfback Edoardo Gori feinted and then outraced the standout Luke Hume for a 35th-minute try.
With Andrew Suniula dismissed, perhaps harshly, for a late hit on Bocchino at 45 minutes, the US mounted few scoring opportunities until Wyles' long-range, fourth-quarter penalty chance, which fell short. Then Emerick was sent off in the 75th minute (of running time) for a dangerous tackle, unlike Suniula's foul a clear 'no wrap' shoulder charge.
Bochhino goaled the penalty and then replacement flyhalf Kris Burton scored close out the contest.
The loss cost the Eagles XX points but no places in the International Rugby Board rankings, while dropping America's record against Italy to 0-4.
The unbeaten USA Under 20s face 0-2 Russia tomorrow night in Salt Lake City, bidding for a place in the Junior World Trophy finals.
Madison Hughes scored three tries and 19 points goalkicking in the age-grade team's 54-25 surprisingly lopsided win over Chile Friday.
Italy 30 United States 10
Tries: Paul Emerick
Conversion: Chris Wyles
Penalty; Chris Wyles
Chris Wyles; James Paterson (Colin Hawley), Paul Emerick, Andrew Suniula, Luke Hume; Roland Suniula (Will Holder), Mike Petri (Mose Timoteo); Shawn Pittman (Eric Fry), Chris Biller, Eric Fry (Mike MacDonald, Tolifili Liufau), Louis Stanfill, Brian Doyle (Derek Asbun), Taylor Mokate (Andrew Durutalo), Scott Lavalla, Todd Clever (captain)
Tries: Carlo Festuccia, Edoardo Gori, Kris Burton
Conversions: Riccardo Bocchino (2), Kris Burton
Penalties: Riccardo Bocchino (3)
Luke McLean; Giovambattista Venditi, Roberto Quartaroli, Luca Morisi, Tommaso Benvenuti; Riccardo Bocchino, Edoardo Gori; Alberto De Marchi, Carlo Festuccia, Martin Castrogiovanni (captain), Antonio Pavanello, Joshua Furno, Alessandro Zanni, Mauro Bergamasco, Robert Barbieri
Referee: Jerome Garces (France)