Nash brace in vain as sloppy Ireland crash to defeat
U-20 World Cup: Italy U-20 22 Ireland U-20 21
Two second-half tries from Calvin Nash were not enough to rescue Ireland as a late try from Massimo Cioffi gave Italy victory in the opening game of the World Rugby U-20 Championship.
The young Italians - who had lost the Six Nations clash between the sides by just a point - bossed the opening half and led 15-3 at the break, but Nash soon had Ireland level with two tries in the space of four minutes after the restart.
Penalties from Conor Dean and Ciaran Frawley pushed Ireland ahead, but after the converted Italian try, Frawley was unable to land a long-range winner with the last kick of the game.
"We're devastated, they're a good, physical side. Our first-half performance probably wasn't up to scratch," said Ireland captain Paul Boyle.
"It was a pretty stern message at half-time. Our 'D' wasn't great, we didn't get out attack shape right. It wasn't good enough.
"We know we can do it, we just need to sharpen up on a few things in training and have a bit more physicality in the first half for the next game."
Ireland dominated the possession stakes in the opening half but were punished for a series of errors.
Eight minutes in Ireland had the chance to take the lead but Dean's penalty drifted wide, and Italy went ahead when prop Danilo Fischetti finished off a maul from a lineout.
On 18 minutes Jacopo Bianchi touched down after a chip over the top from Antonio Rizzi, who added the extras, then dropped a goal after Dean's penalty had cut the gap.
A good carry from Frawley and offload led to Nash's first try in the corner after 43 minutes, and four minutes later the Young Munster man went over again from Gavin Mullin's flat pass. Dean's touchline conversion levelled the scores.
Alan Tynan had a try ruled out for a knock-on, and Dean missed with a drop at goal.
Dean did put Ireland the lead 16 minutes from time from the tee, and seven minutes later Frawley drilled over a superb kick to stretch the lead to six.
But it was a precarious advantage, and three minutes from time Marco Zanon's break put Cioffi over, and Rizzi slotted the winning conversion from the right.
ITALY - 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.
IRELAND - J Kelly; C Hogan (A Tynan 24), G Mullin, C Frawley, C Nash; C Dean, J Stewart; J Conway (G McGrath 71), D Barron (R Kelleher 24), C Connolly (P Cooper 71); F Wycherley, O Dowling (J Regan 68); M Rea (S Masterson 65), P Boyle (c), G Coombes.
REF - M Adamson (SRFU)