Italy loses 19-17 to Tonga after historic Springboks win

By Associated Press 27 November 2016, 12:00AM

PADUA, Italy (AP) — Just a week after beating South Africa for the first time, Italy came back to earth in losing to Tonga 19-17 on the last kick of the match on Saturday.

Scrumhalf Sonatane Takulua converted the winning kick after stand-in captain Simone Favaro was penalized.

Italy scored two tries to one and had two more tries disallowed. But it started and finished the second half down a man because of yellow cards. Even so, fullback Edoardo Padovani seemed to give the home side victory with a penalty in the 78th minute.

But Takulua got a chance at his fourth penalty kick and didn't miss, and Tonga earned its first win over Italy since their first matchup in the 1999 Rugby World Cup. Tonga had lost to the Italians three times since.

The Tongans completed a triumphant tour of Europe, after wins over Spain and the United States.

"We are very disappointed because we had a lot of opportunities during the match," Italy coach Conor O'Shea said. "Credit to Tonga because they never went away. But our execution wasn't good enough today, nor was our discipline.

"We had two or three opportunities near their line and the game would have been over. It happens. I'm very positive for the future. It's a long and hard journey but we've started the change."

Italy beat the Springboks 20-18 but the pressure was different this time. Italy was the favorite against Tonga, even without captain Sergio Parisse, its most capped player who was banned by the French club leagues. Flanker Favaro took over the captaincy for the first time.

Italy reached halftime 7-3 ahead, but with worries.

Prop Lorenzo Cittadini scored from an attacking lineout early then Italy lost its way.

Tonga No. 8 Tevita Koloamatangi was seriously injured and, after several minutes of treatment on the pitch, was taken off on a stretcher. His replacement Valentino Mapapalangi was yellow-carded three minutes after coming on for a dangerous tackle on Cittadini, but that seemed to galvanize Tonga. Takulua kicked over his first penalty.

Prop Sami Panico was sent to the sin-bin on the stroke of halftime for a high tackle on Takulua, meaning Italy had to play the first 10 minutes of the second period with 14 men.

Takulua's second penalty reduced the deficit to one, and Tonga took the lead in the 52nd when center Siale Piutau evaded Padovani down the left and sprinted into the left corner for a converted try, and 13-7.

Italy reacted by changing the halves: Sending on Tommaso Allan and Edoardo Gori for Carlo Canna and Giorgio Bronzini. It worked.

Inside center Luke McLean caught his own chip and offloaded to Allan to score. Allan added the extras, and Italy was back in front by one.

Italy right winger Giulio Bisegni thought he scored, but video replay showed he was tackled into touch just before dotting down.

Allan went from hero to villain when he was shown a yellow card in the 72nd, and Takulua's third penalty made it 16-14.

There was still time for the lead to change two more times, and Italy to lose some gloss off of its historic win over the Boks.

By Associated Press 27 November 2016, 12:00AM

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