The Azzurri had edged in front of the visitors at 11-10 with a Luke McLean try five minutes from time. Italy, though, managed to hold that slender lead only momentarily as Ireland regrouped and Ronan O’Gara fired over a 78th-minute drop goal to win the game 13-11.
“The team still has to learn how tocontrol the ball in attack, we’ve got to be much more patient and when we’re ahead like we were in the last four minutes we can’t miss a kick-off and give the ball straight back to Ireland,” South African Mallett said.
“After the drop, we won the restart but gave it back. There are small areas we can benefit, it would have been fantastic to win but we will definitely learn from the way we lost. But they showed great spirit and I am proud of the team.”
Italian hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini echoed his coach’s assessment and said his side would bounce back.
“Obviously we’re disappointed because we didn’t win. As Nick said, we didn’t manage the last five minutes but we must take positives from the game and continue working. Our spirit is good but the little details matter at this level.”
Italy visit Twickenham next Saturday to take on an England side buoyant after a victory in Cardiff over Wales last Friday night and Mallett must plan without the services of promising 20-year-old scrum-half Edoardo Gori, who was an early casualty at Stadio Flaminio, taken off in the 10th minute.
“Gori suffered a dislocated shoulder. I trust in him and hope to have him back for the Rugby World Cup,” Mallett said.
Meanwhile a disconsolate Mirco Bergamasco felt he was to blame for Italy’s failure to record a historic victory.
The Azzurri looked poised to claim their first Championship win over the Irish when full-back Luke McLean crossed on 74 minutes to put the hosts 11-10 ahead. However, Bergamasco failed to convert from wide on the left touch-line, thus allowing Ronan O’Gara to steal victory for Ireland with a late drop goal.
The Italian players were understandably devastated and none more so than Bergamasco, who, having missed a very kickable penalty in the first half, felt personally responsible.
“I’m obviously not happy at all. I need to understand how I managed to land two harder penalties than the one I missed,” the winger said.
“And the conversion…. If we had gotten to 13 points I think the Irish would have went in search of a try, rather than a drop goal, because they would have wanted to win the game. And I don’t know if they would have been able to break us down.
“I have to understand what went wrong. Maybe I relaxed too much. Maybe I need to keep a clearer head. I really don’t know. But I must take responsibility for my mistakes.”
A win over the Irish would have been a massive scalp for the Italians, who have registered just one victory in the Championship in the past two years, a statistic which made the loss even more difficult for Bergamasco to take.
“Imagine if we had won this game: what a confidence boost it would have been for the whole group! It would have been a just reward for a squad that had once again given everything,” the Racing Metro star said.
“And we only lost because we failed to properly manage the last five minutes of the game. Maybe we got too excited, too frenetic. Maybe there was a little inexperience, which led to avoidable errors. Maybe there was also some bad luck.
“But, overall, we defended well and played a lot more expansively than usual: just look at McLean’s try! And Ireland only made so many mistakes because we did so well in making things difficult for them.
“However, with ifs, ands or buts you do not get anywhere. I would now just like to concentrate on England next week. We have four important games remaining and this squad showed against Ireland that we have both pride and quality.”