The big news from this game is that the Italians fourth try, eked out from the intense pressure that their scrum could exert on the American set piece. This means that Ireland have no get out clause next week and that, just like we assumed would happen at the beginning of the tournament, we have to beat Italy to qualify* for the quarter-final stage.
The Italians made heavy weather of getting this fourth try and were very close to going into the break with only two on the board after a period of sustained pressure (through scrums again) in the dying embers of the first half almost left them coming up short again.
The fourth try arrived after a remarkable series of scrums, penalties and scrums and penalties and scrums. Clancy was visibly thinking to himself, “Is this supposed to be happening? It doesn’t feel like a rugby game” but with Italy about 7/8 yards out the American scrum would generally crumble before reaching a realistic push-over (and hence penalty try) territory. Eventually the American No. 8 was binned for trying to grab the ball from the base of the Italian scrum, I’m pretty sure Clancy’s mic picked up him vainly screaming “it’s out!”
Todd Clever bent Clancy’s ear all night and probably dissuaded him from binning a front rower for scrummaging penalties, much to the frustration of Sergio Parisse who furiously screamed “SCRUM! SCRUM!” at the award of yet another penalty in this sequence to call for more punishment for the game Yankee fatties. The I-ties were momentarily rattled and eventually Parisse let the ball slip from his foot to be fly hacked to touch by the American loose forward. Then they lost the lineout. Morto! Next penalty from ten out they kicked to touch to secure a mall, the inconclusive grounding of which eventually led to the 5 yard scrum from which they were award a penalty try. They were definitely rattled but got over the line eventually.
It was a grinding twenty-five minutes of rugby for that extra point and with any luck it will have taken some poof out of an Italian team who had hoped to have the job done after 55 minutes instead of having Chief Provacateur Castrogiovanni limping off feeling his calf after 75 minutes.
*Or draw… lets not even go down the route of imagining other permutations.