After a horror opening half where Italy ran in two tries and led 15-3, Nash led the Ireland comeback while penalties from Conor Dean and Ciarán Frawley pushed Ireland ahead in the last 15 minutes. But three minutes from time Massimo Cioffi ran in a brilliant third for Italy, and Antonio Rizzi’s touchline conversion proved the winning kick.
Ireland could have robbed Alessandro Troncon’s side with the final kick of the game, but Frawley’s long range penalty drifted wide and Peter Malone’s troops slipped to defeat.
“We’re devastated, they’re a good, physical side. We came back a bit in the second half but we just fell short in the end,” said Ireland captain Paul Boyle.
Considering they dominated the possession stakes it was their own errors that saw them 12 points down at the break. Eight minutes in Ireland had the chance to take the lead but Conor Dean’s penalty drifted wide, and three minutes later a brilliant kick down the left into the unguarded back-field from Giovanni d’Onofrio had Ireland scrambling. While Frawley got back to touch down, Gavin Coombes was penalised for an infringement, and following the mauled lineout, prop Danilo Fischetti scored for a 5-0 lead.
After 18 minutes Rizzi’s chip over the top led to a try for Jacopo Bianchi, which the out-half converted.
Dean kicked a penalty to put Ireland on the board 13 minutes from the interval, but Italy responded with a sweet Rizzi drop goal two minutes later.
Just a point separated these sides when they met in this year’s Six Nations and Italy showed that display was no fluke but Ireland kicked straight into gear after the restart. A good carry from Frawley and offload after the tackle led to Nash’s first try in the left corner after 43 minutes, and four minutes later the Munster youngster was at it again for his second. Dean’s touchline conversion made it 15-15. Another Young Munster man, Alan Tynan looked to have bagged the lead try, but it was ruled out for a knock-on, and soon after Dean missed with a drop at goal, but Ireland continued to dominate.
Dean did give Ireland the lead 16 minutes from time from the tee, and seven minutes later Frawley drilled over a superb kick to stretch Ireland’s lead to six. But three minutes from time Marco Zanon’s break saw Massimo Cioffi score for Italy, and Rizzi slotted the winning conversion.
D Fischetti, J Bianchi, M Cioffi tries; A Rizzi 2 cons, drop.
C Nash (2) tries; C Dean 2 pens, con; C Frawley pen.
M Cioffi; A de Masi (A Bronzini 51), M Zanon, D Schiabel, G d’Onofrio; A Rizzi, C Trussardi (M Panunzi 75); D Fischetti (D Rimpelli 51), M Ceciliani (A Rollero 66), M Riccioni (c) (D Gavrilita h-t); N Cannone (M Lamaro 57), E Iachizzi (L Manni 71), J Bianchi, L Masselli, G Licata.
J Kelly (Dublin University/Leinster); C Hogan (Dublin Univ/Munster), G Mullin (UCD/ Leinster), C Frawley (UCD/Leinster), C Nash (Young Munster/Munster); C Dean (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), J Stewart (Queen’s/Ulster); J Conway (UL Bohemian/Munster), D Barron (Garryowen/Munster), C Connolly (Dublin Univ/Leinster), F Wycherley (Young Munster/Munster), O Dowling (Lansdowne/Leinster), M Rea (Queen’s /Ulster), P Boyle (Lansdowne/Leinster) (capt), G Coombes (Young Munster/Munster).
R Kelleher (UCD/Leinster) for Barron (24); A Tynan (Young Munster/Munster) for Hogan (24); S Masterson (Corinthians/ Connacht) for Rea (65); J Regan (UCD/Leinster) for Dowling (68); G McGrath (Lansdowne/Leinster) for Conway (72); P Cooper (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster) for Connolly (72).
M Adamson (SRFU).