Italy run England close in 'A' international
March 18, 2000

England were rocked by a three-try blast from Italy in the A match here on Friday before running out uncomfortable 33-27 winners.

The English were going along smoothly 17 minutes into the second-half when the Italians suddenly cut loose and scored a hat-trick of tries in nine minutes through Andrea Giacon, Marco Rivaro and Giovanni Raineri.

Stand-off Franceso Mazzariol converted two of these to make the score 27-25 for Italy and there it remained until four minutes to go.

Bedford flanker Roy Winters grabbed the lead for England with a 76th minute try and Northampton replacement Alisdair Hepher clinched the two points with a drop goal on the stroke of full-time.

Bristol winger Spencer Brown was the English hero in the first half with tries in the 8th and 39th minutes and he followed up with a third four minutes into the second period.

Bath hooker Andy Long scored England's fourth try after 53 minutes, before the Italians hit back.

The result gives England "A" four points from four games with Italy winless. But it gives the full Italian side a much-needed boost ahead of Saturday's clash with Grand Slam seeking England in Rome.

However, the English too will have been heartened by the fact that their World Cup captain Martin Johnson emerged unscathed from his first appearance in a white jersey since the quarter-final defeat by South Africa last October.

The Leicester lock, now back to full fitness following an Achilles problem and a bout of concussion, could challenge for a place when England wind up their Six Nations campaign against Scotland early next month.

Italy: Tries: Giacon, Rivaro, Raineri. Conversions: Mazzariol (3), Penalty: Mazzariol (2)

England: Tries: Brown (3), Long, Winters. Conversion: Mapletoft. Penalty: Mapletoft. Drop goal: Hepher

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