IRB Nations Cup champions, Emerging South Africa, scored a thrilling and dramatic 20-19 victory over a resilient Italy A in Bucharest tonight to put them firmly on course to retain their title.
The crucial and hard-fought encounter on day two of the tournament was played before a good and appreciative crowd.
The defending champions went into the halftime break with a deserved 10-0 lead after rightwing Waka Lolo had scored the first try and Isma-eel Dollie (fly half) succeeded with a conversion and also a penalty.
Italy A’s more experienced outfit had more possession in the opening spell, but their young opponents countered with good organisation on defence and great positional play by especially Dollie.
After a somewhat scrappy first half, the match suddenly came alive with the Italian outside half Paulo Buso quickly bringing his team within striking range via two penalties (10-6).
But Emerging SA hit back three minutes later with their best movement of the game. Dollie fed fullback Bjorn Basson in space and at full speed, who in turn sent Rocco Jansen (no. 11) over after he had drawn the cover defence with a storming run. Dollie converted from a narrow angle to stretch the lead to a comfortable 17-6.
Brusso kept Italy in the game with two more penalties and Dollie himself added another to take the score to 20-12 in favour of Emerging SA.
However, with barely three minutes on the clock remaining reserve hooker Franco Sbaraglini crashed over for a converted try to sent the match into a dramatic finish.
The South Africans can secure their successful Cup defence with a victory over hosts Romania on Friday while Italy plays Romania.
Earlier today Georgia registered their first win of the tournament with a narrow 20-18 win over Uruguay.
Emerging South Africa: Tries: Waka Lolo, Rocco Jansen; Conversions: Dollie (2); Penalties (2).
Italy A: Try: Franco Sbaraglini; Conversion: Paolo Buso; Penalties: Buso (4)