Carlo Festuccia, Edoardo Gori and Kristopher Shaun Burton scored tries as Italy took advantage of two American red cards in the second half to beat the United States 30-10 this morning (NZ time).
Paul Emerick scored the lone try for the Americans before he was sent off in the second half for an illegal tackle. Andrew Suniula also earned a red card for the Americans, who played with 13-men for the final 23 minutes in front of a 17,214 crowd, a record for an international rugby match on US soil.
The teams were meeting for the first time since September 2011, when Italy beat the US 27-10 in pool play of the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
Riccardo Bocchino made three penalty kicks and three conversions for the Italians.
The teams played in sweltering heat that lingered even after the sun went down. Italian captain Martin Leandro Castrogiovanni said both teams felt the effects of the humidity early in the game.
"It was really hard for both teams," Castrogiovanni said. "After 10 minutes, we were both breathing heavy. We tried to play quickly, but it wasn't easy."
Italy took the lead less than 3 minutes into the game, when Festuccia scooped up an errant lineout throw by the Americans and outpaced the US defenders to the line.
"It was tough to get out of the gate like that," first-year coach Mike Tolkin said.
Left-footed fullback Chris Wyles booted an early penalty, but Bocchino answered with a penalty only 2 minutes later for a 10-3 lead for the Italians.
The Americans drove deep into Italy's half and Emerick found the try line after a good US lineout for the first try for the hosts. Wyles made the conversion to tie it at 10-all.
Bocchino converted another penalty kick from the right with eight minutes left in the half, before Gori found a gap in the US defense and sprinted 40 meters for another Italian try.
Early in the second half, Suniula earned a red card after a late tackle on Bocchino. The US defense held its own with only 14 players, but then Emerick was whistled for not using his arms in a tackle and was also shown a red card.
"I thought the first one was a little harsh," Tolkin said. "The second one, I still haven't seen clearly, so I'll look at that again."
Bocchino booted another penalty for a 23-10 lead, and Burton put it out of reach with a diving try in the final five minutes.
Tolkin was hired as the new coach of the US squad in February to replace Eddie O'Sullivan. Earlier this month, the Americans lost 28-25 to Canada and defeated Georgia 36-20, and Tolkin said the June matches have been a launching pad for the team's progression toward bigger events in the future.
Tolkin envisions the American team playing a more open, high-scoring style, but the red cards restricted how much the US could operate offensively.
"At times, when we play a little bit up-tempo from the ruck, I thought we put them under some pressure," Tolkin said. "The whole second half was basically a defensive, attrition game where we were just kind of hanging on. It was really unfortunate."
Tolkin said Saturday's match was a valuable learning experience for the US squad as it builds towards the next World Cup in 2015.
"Lessons? We have to keep composure, No. 1," Tolkin said. "No. 2, we can play with these teams, if we keep our head and keep our discipline. And we need to get fitter to play the type of game we want to play."
Ireland and Scotland are scheduled to play in the US in the next two seasons, but the dates and venues have not been set.
Italy 30 (Carlo Festuccia, Edoardo Gori and Kristopher Shaun Burton tries; Riccardo Bocchino 3 penalties, 3 conversions) def.
US 10 (Paul Emerick try; Chris Wyles penalty, conversion).
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