Con un drop di Mantellato a due minuti dalla fine, dopo un match tiratissimo, l’Italia gela gli inglesi, e vince con il minimo scarto.
Al comando degli azzurri in questa meritata vittoria, c’è Carlo Napolitano, italo-inglese, nato e cresciuto a Salford, e proprio nella sua città, l’allenatore dell’Italia trova il miglior risultato di sempre del rugby league italiano, a scapito di coach Mc Namara e degli inglesi.
Ad una settimana dalla cerimonia di apertura della Rugby League World Cup 2013 che si terrà al Millennium Stadium di Cardiff, a cui seguiranno gli incontri Inghilterra vs Australia e Italia Vs Galles, l’inghilterra aveva bisogno di un incontro di spessore, ed è proprio quello che hanno trovato oggi contro gli italiani.
Sotto una pioggia torrenziale, l’inghilterra non è mai entrata in partita ed è stata punita dal pilone Laffranchi che segnato le due mete azzurre del primo tempo.
Carl Ablett buca e varca per la prima volta la linea di meta italiana, e segna i primi punti per la compagine inglese, a cui seguono, poi, le marcature di Sam Tompkins che fissano il punteggio sul 14 a 12 per gli inglesi alla fine del primo tempo.
La ripresa vede Italia ed Inghilterra confrontarsi su ogni pallone, ma solamente il piede di Mantellato, prima con un calcio piazzato, poi con un drop, fa cambiare il risultato concedendo agli azzurri una storica prima vittoria contro i fortissimi inglesi.
Alla fine dell’incontro coach Napolitano dichiara in conferenza stampa, che si aspettava un’inghilterra diversa. Sempre Coach Napolitano afferma che :” la chiave della partita è stata la maggiore determinazione degli italiani, infatti i miei ragazzi hanno difeso in modo superbo e hanno dimostrato di competere contro i più atrezzati inglesi”, Napolitano continua aggiungendo:” ringrazio gli azzurri per questo risultato storico per l’Italia del rugby league e per la F.I.R.L., questo risultato ci darà maggiore coscenza dei nostri mezzi, per affrontare il Mondiale nel migliore dei modi.
Inghilterra: Tomkins, Hall, Ablett, Cudjoe, Briscoe, Chase, Sinfield, Graham, McIlorum, Mossop, Hock, Farrell, Burgess; Charnley, Watkins, Widdop, Burrow, Hill, Roby, G. Burgess
Italia: Minichiello, Mantellato,Tedesco, Guerra, Saltonstall, Ghietti, Maccan, Laffranchi, Parata, Vaughan, Mark Minichiello, Santi, Riethmuller; Falcone, Hiscox, Celerino, Gardel, Calegari, Centrino, Ciraldo, Ciaurro, Nasso, Musalino, Tramonte
A drop-goal by Josh Mantellato two minutes from the end of gripping match gave Italy a shock victory over England by the narrowest of margins.
It was little more than an Italy team coached by Salford-born and raised Carlo Napolitano deserved at the AJ Bell Stadium in Salford as England suffered the ultimate fate for what their coach Steve McNamara suggested was a complacent performance.
A week before they open Rugby League World Cup 2013 with a match against Australia in Crdiff, England needed an intense test and that is just what they got: the Kangaroos have not played a warm-up game this weekend and can expect to come up againsy battle-hardened opponents with much to prove.
On a rain-swept afternoon, England never got going throughout and were punished by a clinical display by St Helens forward Anthony Laffranchi who scored two first half tries.
Carl Ablett got England off the mark with the opening try before Sam Tomkins scored twice to give England a 14-12 half-time lead, but a second half penalty and drop-goal from Mantellato was enough for Italy to record a historic win in the first senior meeting between the two nations.
England failed to get out of first gear and were punished early on by Laffranchi. The Saints forward exploited Sam Burgess’s missed tackle to squirm over the line and open the scoring for the Italians.
Burgess looked like atoning for his error as he crashed over the line but was deemed to be held up. However, Ablett did get England off the mark shortly after.
Ryan Hall latched on to a kick out wide and found Liam Farrell, who offloaded to Ablett to leave England within two.
Italy responded well, though, and Laffranchi extended their lead, allowing Josh Mantellato to kick another two-pointer.
England’s best period of the game followed as a somewhat fortuitous Tomkins slipped out of the way of a tackle to set up what should have been an easy conversion for Kevin Sinfield.
However, the scrum-half hit the outside of the post to leave England trailing by four.
England looked to make good use of their kicking game as Tomkins collected a kick from out wide and went over again. Gareth Widdop kicked the conversion to put England into a 14-12 half-time lead.
The lead was proved not to be enough, though. Chances in the second half were few and far between, and with the ball still slippery from a first-half downpour, handling errors became increasingly common from both sides.
The closest Italy came to scoring their opening try of the half was when Ben Falcone placed a grubber to the corner, however the kick was dealt with by well Josh Charnley.
Hall came closest to scoring for England in the second half but it was another handling error which proved costly as his knock-on prevented what would have been a certain try.
England conceded a penalty with little over 10 minutes remaining, and in an attempt to level the score, the Italians opted to go for goal. Ray Nasso duly obliged to set up a thrilling finale.
The testing conditions were to prove a deciding factor as the visitors then secured a vital point after a kick deep into England’s half.
Charnley, under no pressure failed to collect the ball to set Italy up with a gilt-edged chance to seal the win. Mantellato was presented with the opportunity to kick the winning drop-goal from 20 metres out in the penultimate minute.
1 Sam Tomkins (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
2 Ryan Hall (Leeds Rhinos, Oulton Raiders)
3 Carl Ablett (Leeds Rhinos, Hunslet Parkside)
4 Leroy Cudjoe (Huddersfield Giants, Newsome Panthers)
5 Tom Briscoe (Hull FC, Featherstone Lions)
6 Rangi Chase (Castleford Tigers, Dannevirke Tigers)
7 Kevin Sinfield, captain (Leeds Rhinos, Waterhead)
8 James Graham (Canterbury Bulldogs, Blackbrook)
9 Michael McIlorum (Wigan Warriors, Queens)
10 Lee Mossop (Wigan Warriors, Hensingham)
11 Gareth Hock (Widnes Vikings, Wigan St Judes)
12 Liam Farrell (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
13 Sam Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs, Dewsbury Moor)
14 Josh Charnley (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
15 Kallum Watkins (Leeds Rhinos, Latchford Albion)
16 Gareth Widdop (Melbourne Storm, King Cross)
17 Rob Burrow (Leeds Rhinos, Featherstone Lions)
20 Chris Hill (Warrington Wolves, New Spring Lions)
19 James Roby (St Helens, Blackbrook)
18 George Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs, Dewsbury Moor)
1 Anthony Minichiello (Sydney Roosters, captain)
2 Josh Mantellato (Newcastle Knights)
3 James Tedesco (Wests Tigers)
4 Aidan Guerra (Sydney Roosters)
5 James Saltonstall (Warrington Wolves)
6 Ryan Ghietti (Northern Pride)
7 Tim Maccan (Tweed Head Seagulls)
8 Anthony Laffranchi (St Helens)
9 Dean Parata (Parramatta)
10 Paul Vaughan (Canberra Raiders)
11 Mark Minichiello (Gold Coast Titans)
12 Brenden Santi (Parramatta Eels)
13 Joel Riethmuller (North Queensland Cowboys)
14 Ben Falcone (South Logan)
15 Gavin Hiscox (Central Coast Capras)
16 Gioele Celerino (North West Roosters, Italy)
17 Sam Gardel (South Logan)
18 Christophe Calegari (Lezignan)
19 Chris Centrino (North Sydney Bears)
20 Cameron Ciraldo (Penrith Panthers)
21 Fabrizio Ciaurro (Coventry Bears)
22 Ray Nasso (Avignon)
23 Ben Musalino (Manly Sea Eagles)
24 Ryan Tramonte (Windsor Wolves)
Referee: Richard Silverwood (England)
England face Australia at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday October 26, as part of a double header of matches including Wales v Italy which follow the RLWC2013 Opening Ceremony.
The hosts’ campaign continues with a clash against Ireland in Huddersfield on Saturday November 2 before taking on Fiji in Hull in their final group match on Saturday November 9.
Italy face Wales at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday October 26, as part of a double header of matches including England v Australia which follow the RLWC2013 Opening Ceremony.
They then travel to Workington for a clash against Scotland on Sunday November 3 before taking on Tonga in Halifax in their final group match on Sunday November 10.