venue: Stadio Simone Franchini, Monselice
11th June 2008
Full Match Report
The BARLA Great Britain Under 23s side romped to a 64-0 victory over Italy in the build-up to their defence of the Simone Franchini Nines Trophy on Saturday.
Three players each scored two tries, with Queens stand off Jonathan Milner crossing twice in the first half, Skirlaugh loose forward Lee Waterman bagging a late brace, and rangy second row Ash Johannessen of East Hull getting a touchdown in each half.
Kells centre Scott Lofthouse, Hull Dockers winger Kristian Birch, Saddleworth Rangers centre Danny Adams, together with Leigh Miners Rangers substitute Tom Eckersley, Shaw Cross half back Steve Shaw and Graham Charlesworth of Halifax Irish also popped over.
Leigh East scrum half Ryan Peters kicked six goals and Waterman improved both of his tries.
Britain, who face France on Friday evening when the `senior’ members of their 35-man squad will be in action, were given a tougher test by the home side than the final scoreline would suggest. Birch was denied a try in the seventh minute, Milner’s final pass being ruled forward, and Bank Quay Bulls back row forward Jonny Walker – another impressive figure throughout – was sin-binned a minute later for his part in a scuffle involving several players.
But a move involving Milner, Johannessen, Waterman and Normanton winger Andy Greaves signalled what was to follow as Britain began to take control.
Peters opened the scoring for Great Britain in the 11th minute with a penalty, ratified by BARLA tour captain Tom Hill, of York Acorn, who acted as a touch-judge.
Scott Lofthouse set the contest alight with a glorious long-range try and with the likes of props Danny Caldwell, of Acorn, and Aaron Fewlass (Myton Warriors) setting a strong platform, the issue became one of how many points Britain could score.
The fact that many of the visitors’ touchdowns were excellent team efforts and were therefore scored out wide – Italy’s impressive resilience also being a factor, with defenders pursuing to the last – limited BARLA’s total, although the result failed to reflect the hosts’ courageous input.
Half backs Shane Harden and Chris Borgese were players of obvious quality in Italy’s ranks, as were hooker John Marcinczas and second row Marco Ferrazzano, while centre Daniel Wilson was unfortunate to have a `try’ ruled out in the second period, and back row man Angelo Ricci was also outstanding.
Tiziano Franchini – the organiser of the Simone Franchini Nines Tournament, which is held in memory of his late twin brother – and Matt Sands also made strong contributions.
But the home side struggled to contain Johannessen, in particular, while Walker and Waterman were constant threats as Britain’s back three prospered.
Hooker Kyle Lofthouse, of Ellenborough Rangers, was lively in support.The half back duo of Milner and Peters, together with Johannessen, linked to send Birch over in the 18th minute and Saddleworth centre Danny Adams was next to cross, off Egremont full back Rhys Davies’ well-timed pass.
Kyle Lofthouse, Milner – with a sweet ball – and Scott Lofthouse were involved in the next raid, Johannessen powering to the posts, and Leigh Miners Rangers’ substitute Tom Eckersley was soon over the whitewash with a powerful solo score.
Milner closed the opening period by bustling through three defenders from short range and, at 34-0 ahead, BARLA were on course for a resounding victory.
Milner, the captain on the night, opened the second period by gathering his own neat chip for a delightful score but Italy recovered to keep Britain at bay until the hour mark, when Shaw crossed from his own kick and chase.
A trademark surge by Johannessen led to Charlesworth nipping over, Johannessen grabbing the next touchdown from Shaw’s well-judged offload. Caldwell’s powerful charge helped get Waterman in from 40 metres, and the loose forward added his second try, with eight minutes remaining, courtesy of a cameo combination by Charlesworth and Shaw.
Leigh Miners winger Kieran Dainty and Alastair McCloud, of Holderness Vikings, also made telling contributions.
Italy, however, signalled hope for the future by having the better of the last eight minutes, BARLA pleasing coaches Gary Charlton, of Cumbria, and Tony Spence (Skirlaugh) by keeping their opponents scoreless despite sustained pressure.
Charlton said: “The boys went out and did what we asked of them. They completed their sets, played in Italy’s half and dominated the ruck positions, and tackled in numbers. We didn’t know what to expect; we knew that Italy had imported a few Australians and Kiwis, and for the first 10 minutes they looked ok. But once we started completing our sets and dominating the rucks, it was the end of the game. Other than a couple of occasions on which our players got too excited and threw away possession, they stuck to our game plan. Our forwards set the platform we hoped for from them.”
Spence said: “We’ve had a big turnaround in personnel since the Under 23s came to Italy last year and the players have all shown up well. I was pleased that we kept our shape in attack and defence and didn’t get excited, and it bodes well for the future. And to be fair to the Italians, they kept on going. Their coach must be quite pleased. There were times when their offloads caused us some problems. I’m sure if they keep on improving, and keep playing teams like us, they’ll improve. Johannessen was absolutely outstanding and Walker, as vice captain, pushed him all the way, while Milner was also superb. But it was a good all-round performance, and the players have a lot to play for, with tours to Dubai and hopefully the South Pacific on the agenda.”
Italy coach Carlos Napolitano – formerly of Salford - said: “Nobody likes to get beat by a scoreline like that but we’re building the game in Italy and in the first 20 minutes of both halves we competed against a very strong BARLA side. I take a lot of satisfaction from that, and the result definitely didn’t reflect the game. Our boys tried hard, but it was difficult against a BARLA side that was well-structured and had several talented players. The Italian lads with a Rugby Union background just don’t have the conditioning to deal with Rugby League yet, but if you don’t ask the questions you don’t get the answers, and that’s what we’re trying to do. BARLA’s players operate at a high level of intensity each week, and that had an effect.
“The amount of interest that we can get in Italy governs the number of players we have and it’s important that we get TV coverage. That would attract more players, coaches and backroom staff, everything would fall into place.
“We’re now looking forward to meeting Germany but we’ll be without half back Chris Borgese, of Salford, who has suffered his third hamstring tear in a year. Germany beat the Czech Republic 44-22 but I have no doubt that they are nowhere near the standard of the BARLA Under 23s. We’re looking forward to a tough match.”
Chris Borgese, Nicola Bressanin, Riccardo Faccia, Marco Ferrazzano, Tiziano Franchini, Shane Harden, Lee Hughes, Andrew Kaleopa, Ed Lerna, Mario-Jonathan Marcinczak, Gianluca Pantano, Juan Cruz Quiroga Ramirez, Agostin Quiroga Ramirez, Angelo Ricci, Matthew Sands, Filippo Veronese, Daniel Wilson, Andrea Zacchia, Francesco Zen
BARLA GREAT BRITAIN UNDER 23S
Jonny Walker (Bank Quay Bulls), Ashley Johannessen (East Hull), Rhys Davies (Egremont Rangers), Kyle Lofthouse (Ellenborough Rangers), Graham Charlesworth (Halifax Irish), Alastair McCloud (Holderness Vikings).Kristian Birch (Hull Dockers), Scott Lofthouse (Kells), Ryan Peters (Leigh East), Kieran Dainty, Tom Eckersley (Leigh Miners Rangers), Aaron Fewlass (Myton Warriors), Andy Greaves (Normanton Knights), Jonny Milner (Queens), Danny Adams (Saddleworth Rangers), Steve Shaw (Shaw Cross Sharks), Lee Waterman (Skirlaugh), Danny Caldwell (York Acorn)