Italy’s South African coach Nick Mallett said he was frustrated by his side’s two crucial first-half mistakes that cost them a first-ever victory over England.
Italy lost 23-19 at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico in the Six Nations on Sunday in a match where they came as close as ever to beating England in 14 attempts.
Their previous smallest losing margin was seven points, a 27-20 defeat at the World Cup in South Africa in 1995, while their previous smallest Six Nations defeat came last year at Twickenham when they went down 20-7.
But Mallett said he took no solace from the narrow scoreline, despite Italy’s rousing second-half fightback, where they came back from a 20-6 half-time deficit to lose by just four points.
”At 20-6 at half-time I thought it was possible that this team might have lost by 35-10, so I’m very pleased with the way they played in the second half,” he said.
”I don’t like losing and it doesn’t matter to me how many we lost by, what matters was the way we played in the second half. We played some fantastic rugby.”
However, the former Springbok and Stade Francais coach admitted he was frustrated at the two tries they gave away before the break.
”I’m very frustrated by the first two tries, one from a lost line-out that we ought to have won and one from a charged-down kick.
”That’s 14 points we gave away.”
The line-outs were an important feature of the game, with Italy losing theirs five times, and several times at crucial moments.
In the third minute they got in a complete mess, allowing England to steal the ball and break from their own half with Paul Sackey going over in the corner to open the scoring.
Italy also lost their line-out again in the final couple of minutes when they were searching for a winning try.
By then two charged-down kicks had also resulted in tries.
On the quarter hour, Jamie Noon beat down David Bortolussi’s kick, gathered the ball and slipped it to Jonny Wilkinson who in turn found Toby Flood who dived over in the corner.
And four minutes from time Italy replacement scrumhalf Simon Picone charged down a clumsy chip ahead from Wilkinson’s replacement, Danny Cipriani, before gathering the ball himself and scoring under the posts.
Italy captain Sergio Parisse, the man of the match, admitted the line-outs had been what cost his team.
”The calls were clear but there were some mistakes in the jumping and England are good at disrupting line-outs,” he said.
”The line-outs were worse than they were in Dublin [where Italy lost their opener to Ireland], especially since we lost the last line-out of the game when we had a chance to have a last attack and to try to score a try.”
Parisse earned his 50th cap on the day and was also named the best player on the pitch, but he would have swapped all that for a victory.
”Of course it’s a pleasure to win 50 caps but the man of the match is not so important,” he said. ”I would have preferred to have not played so well but to have won.” — AFP