Italy showed their class as they made the most of playing with a numerical advantage for more than half of their WXV 2 clash at Athlone Stadium to beat the Springbok Women by 36-18 (half-time 22-10) in Cape Town on a chilly Friday afternoon.
A first half yellow card to Veroeshka Grain (centre) was followed by a red card to Aseza Hele (No 8) in the 50th minute, and when Luchell Hanekom (replacement hooker) was injured with 20 minutes to go, with no one left to replace her, the South Africans had to finish the game with 13 players.
Against an experienced team like Italy, that proved costly, but the Bok Women deserve credit for never giving up as they played some of their best rugby late in the game.
Despite winning an early scrum penalty, the South Africans struggled to impose themselves in the first half, with silly errors costing them opportunities to build momentum.
This was perfectly illustrated by the lineout from the penalty in the fourth minute. Italy stole the Boks’ throw, spread the ball wide and Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi (fullback) found space on the outside to race away for the first try 90m downfield from where play originated.
Not long thereafter, a converted try by SA captain and prop Babalwa Latsha, after a patient build-up in the Italian 22, meant the scores were level at 7-7 after 10 minutes.
But the Italians read the Bok Women’s defence perfectly, forced turnovers and found holes which they exploited. In the 12th minute, Italy wing Aura Muzzo scored their second try from a driving maul, and when Grain was yellow carded for a high tackle three minutes later, the host team had their backs against the wall.
They still defended well, but Italian flanker Alissa Ranuccini crashed over in the 24th minute to make it 19-7 for the visitors from Europe. To compound their problems, the Bok Women lost two key players to injury in the first half in Micke Gunter (hooker) and Tayla Kinsey (scrumhalf).
Flyhalf Libbie Janse van Rensburg, who converted Latsha’s try, and Beatrice Capomaggi (centre), who converted two of Italy’s three tries, traded penalies to see the teams go into the break with the visitors leading by 22-10.
Janse van Rensburg closed the gap to nine points (22-13) with her second penalty goal in the 48th minute, but Hele was red carded for head-to-head contact in the tackle a minute later.
Another minute later, and it was 29-13 as Vittoria Vecchini (hooker) scored Italy’s fourth try as they kept on finding holes in the SA defence.
However, the Bok Women refused to lie down and just before the hour mark, Byrhandre Dolf (wing) scored her first Test try after South Africa again showed great patience on attack in the Italian 22.
Disaster struck at the same time though as Hanekom, who had replaced Gunter earlier, was injured and forced to leave the field.
As South Africa didn’t have a suitable replacement, they lost another player as the referee ordered uncontested scrums for the remainder of the game.
Playing with only 13 women galvanised the Bok Women as they played with more composure, testing the Italian defence as they kept possession.
Pressing hard for a third try, the Bok Women were punished when Alyssa D’Inca (wing) intercepted on Italy’s 10m line and raced 60m downfield to all but seal the deal, with just over five minutes to go.
Scotland Maintain Perfect Start in WXV 2 with Win against USA in Cape Town
In Friday’s earlier match, Scotland’s women’s rugby team continued their impressive run in the WXV 2 competition with a 24-14 victory over the USA in Cape Town.
The win secured Scotland’s fifth consecutive victory and maintained their perfect start to the tournament, with 10 points from a possible 10. Francesca McGhie, Emma Wassell, Rhona Lloyd, and Chloe Rollie all scored tries for Scotland, while Charli Jacoby and Paige Stathopoulos crossed the line for the USA.
Italy and Scotland now top of the WXV 2 standings, with Italy in the slight advantage on points diffference, thanks to their bonus-point victory against hosts South Africa on Friday.
WXV 2 Round 2 Match Result: Springbok Women v Italy at the Athlone Stadium in Cape Town, on Friday, 20 October, 2023
Springbok Women 18 (10) – 36 (22) Italy
Springbok Women 18 (10) – Tries: Babalwa Latsha, Byrhandre Dolf. Conversion: Libbie Janse van Rensburg. Penalty goals: Janse van Rensburg (2).
Italy 36 (22) – Tries: Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi, Aura Muzzo, Alissa Ranuccini, Vittoria Vecchini, Alyssa D’Inca. Conversions: Beatrice Capomaggi (3). Penalty goals: Capomaggi.
Main Photo Caption: Italy rose to the top of the WXV 2 World Rugby tournament with a points difference advantage over Scotland after their 36-18 win over the Springbok women in Cape Town on Friday evening, penalised when indiscipline and player fitness reduced the hosts to just 13 players for the majority of the second half Photo: Supplied
Photo 2 Caption: Italy gained early scoreboard advantage, dotting down with the first five minutes of the match to pile the pressure on tournament hosts, South Africa. Photo: Supplied
Photo 3 Caption: Counterintuitively, the Springbok’s best game came in the second half when they were two players down, and posing a big threat to Italy by making ground towards a bonus point try, before an Italian intercept try courtesy the debut captain Alyssa D’Incà in the dying moments of the match, which dashed South African hearts. Photo: Supplied