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September 12, 2007

Bortolami was never in doubt

Italy skipper Marco Bortolami insists he never gave up on his side after they fought back to defeat World Cup Pool C rivals Romania 24-18 in Marseille.

Despite starting brightly, the Azzurri struggled to break down their opponents for long spells and were given a scare when Romania took a 12-8 lead in the second half.

But the Romanians' indiscipline cost them dearly in the final half-hour as a series of penalties from Ramiro Pez proved the difference between the sides.

The result keeps the Azzurri's hopes of qualification for the knockout phases alive following their opening 76-14 humbling by New Zealand.

"This was a critical game for us,'' Bortolami said. "We knew Romania were going to be a tough team to beat. We had a lot of possession in the first half, but we didn't score that much.

"Then, in the second half, we showed the Italian spirit and we were able to win.

"I always believed we could win. Our scrum was outstanding and it was one of the keys for our victory.''

Coach Pierre Berbizier made six changes to his side and it did not take long for the revamped team to get off the mark when Pez capitalised on a loose ball from the Romanian scrum to find Santiago Dellape, who fell awkwardly as he went over.

David Bortolussi kicked the conversion - his only successful attempt of the night - to put Italy 8-0 up at the break.

But Romania, making their tournament bow, turned the tables to move 12-8 ahead courtesy of Alexandru Manta and Marius Tincu tries, the latter converted by Ionut Dimofte.

The Italians quickly regained the lead when they were awarded a penalty try which Pez duly converted before adding two more penalties to move them 21-12 ahead.

It was tit for tat in the closing stages as both sides punished the other's ill discipline, a further Pez penalty sandwiched between two Dimofte kicks, but the Azzurri held on for a hard-fought win.

Berbizier admitted his side were still feeling the after-effects of their All Blacks mauling but paid tribute to the opposition.

"It was very difficult,'' he said. "Congratulations to Romania for the way they played the match.

"It was hard to keep up physically four days after our last match. Romania were rested and that made it more difficult for us.''

And fly-half Pez acknowledged there is still plenty of room for improvement from his side.

He added: "We expected Romania to play hard and so we had to be at our best to beat them. Now we will have time to improve before we play Portugal. We need to get better.''

Romania coach Daniel Santamans found it hard to hide his disappointment after his side had matched the Italians for large spells.

He said: "We tried to get the positive aspect and that is, we got the bonus point. It was frustrating to get the yellow card when we were winning.''

His thoughts were echoed by second row Cristian Petre, who believes his side were made to pay for their mistakes.

"This game improved the team,'' he said. "We played well especially among the forwards. Romania needs this type of game.

"We made too many mistakes. Today was about defence, which was very good. However, we gave Italy points through mistakes.''

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