This was a triumph of both style and substance by Italy – the scale of destruction for Scotland’s future rugby talent can hardly be over-stated.
This could not be sugar-coated by judging it in terms of development, or explained away by lack of match action. It was simply awful in almost every way, eclipsing the previous worst 19 point margin of Six Nations defeat to the Italian U20s.
Italy are better at this level than in the senior Six Nations, but they were without a win so far in this tournament and this was expected to be the chance for the Scots to get off the mark themselves.
While there were areas of encouragement in the defeats to Ireland and England, parts of the game which functioned well for periods of time, there was nothing, zip, nada to cling onto here.
The lineout which provided a platform against Ireland was picked off at will by the Italians. They even poached high throws at 6’9” Scottish captain Alex Samuels.
The breakdown, which was strong against England, was even worse as the Italians gained countless turnovers.
A weak scrum, missed tackles, kicks going straight into touch, restarts going wrong – it was a long list of problems for Scotland.
“It was quite embarrassing to be honest, it wasn’t what playing for Scotland is about. We talked afterwards about respecting the thistle we wear on our chest,” admitted captain Alex Samuels.
Coach Sean Lineen added, “We were poor, very poor. We didn’t see that coming. Italy were good, they won the contact battle hands down, but we didn’t win our lineouts and didn’t fire a shot in attack.
“It was a really below par performance all round, very, very disappointing. They are a group of young lads trying to find their game so everyone has to work really hard.”
But amazingly it ran deeper than that. When they did attack, Scotland were formulaic, predictable and almost waiting for the ball to be lost.
Italy played with brio, excitement, endeavour. The first try after just five minutes started on their own try line and was finished with panache by right wing Flavio Pio Vaccari, setting them on their way with a touch of class.
They scored from long range and short range, with directness and width, there was no area of the game where they were not better.
So to try to find something, anything positive about Scotland. Scrum half Murray Redpath was a lone figure trying to spark something in the first half. They plainly had a rocket at half-time and came out with determination, though even that was undermined by regular loss of possession.
Scotland’s best period of pressure came after the 80 minutes were up. Perhaps predictably that ended with a lost ball rather than a consolation score.
Scotland have a tough few days to regroup before facing France, a team they have never beaten at U20 level, and then hosts Wales. At least it can’t get any worse – can it?
Scorers: Italy: Tries – Vaccari, Pani, Neculai, Andreani, Albanese, Spagnolo. Cons – Marin (2). Pens – Marin (2), Teneggi.
Scotland U20: Pen – Scott.
Scotland: E Gourlay (A Clayton 68); A Scott, T Glendinning (M Gray 40), S King (C Townsend 40), F Callaghan; C Scott, M Redpath; C Lamberton (M Jones 40), J Drummond (P Harrison 47), G Breese (O Frostick 58), M Williamson (,E Ferrie 58), A Samuel (Capt), A Smeaton, O Leatherbarrow (R Tait 58), B Muncaster.
Italy: L Pani, FP Vaccari, T Menoncello, F Drago (A Fusari 66), S Gesi; L Marin N Teneggi 66), M Albanese; M Spagnolo (L Rizzoli 20-33, 62), T Di Bartolomeo (M Baldelli 17-23), I Neculai (M Hasa 56), G Ferrari (F Boschetti 56), N Piantella A Angelone 69), L Andreani (C), RM Vintcent, L Cannone (G Cenedese 62).
Referee: Tual Trainini (France)