Scotland's under-20s earned a dramatic win over their Italian counterparts yesterday and removed the possibility of relegation from the top tier of the IRB Junior World Championship.
The Scots, who face Argentina in the 9th-10th place play-off on Friday, will thus be one of the 12 teams in next year's tournament in Italy.
After a torrid time in the group stages - albeit against two of the tournaments semi-finalists, South Africa and New Zealand, as well as a physical Samoa side - the young Scots were aware that they had to achieve a positive result yesterday. Scotland performed impressively to reverse the outcome against the Italians in the Six Nations earlier this year, recording a first win in 11 international matches this year.
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"I'm really delighted for the players. We had such a hard group and so it was the fourth game we really targeted," said Sean Lineen, the Scotland under-20 head coach. "We've got Argentina on Friday, that's a real challenge for the guys, and we know what we have to work on when we get back to training."
The young Scots had to overcome an 11-point interval deficit the ECOLight Stadium, after Italy scored two penalty goals through captain and stand-off Filippo Buscema. They also added an uncoverted try through winger Daniele di Guilio six minutes before the break.
However, in an incredible 15 minute-spell in the second half, Scotland scored three converted tries to turn the game. Jamie Ritchie was the man to start the fightback with a try in the corner, before the recent Edinburgh signing Neil Irvine-Hess added a second and Ayr prop Darcy Rae scored a third. All three tries were converted by Northampton under-18 stand-off Rory Hutchinson and put the Scots 21-11 ahead.
Italy responded with a try by their No.8 Renato Giammarioli - which was converted by Buscema - and then in a nail-biting finish the Italians had the chance to level the scores only for Buscema to miss with a penalty attempt, leaving the Scots triumphant.
Meanwhile, the final on Friday will be contested by defending champions England, who defeated Ireland 42-15, and South Africa. The latter were winners over host nation New Zealand. Elsewhere, Wales were edged out by France and Australia were able to reassert themselves with a victory over Samoa.