È il momento di rendere merito ai Fratelli d’Italia dell’over ’50.
Signori che hanno strabiliato il pubblico dei Mondiali, arrivando a giocarsi, a viso aperto, la Finale con l’Australia. Donandoci l’onore di essere gli unici europei ad aver conseguito una medaglia d’argento in questi Campionati del Mondo.
Squadra brillantemente schierata in campo da Coach Ross Pugliese, co-capitanata da Joe Lancuba e Doriano Meta.
Giocatori forti, disciplinati, sempre sorridenti e, a dispetto dell’etá, estremamente atletici.
L’incontro con la open mixed, indimenticabile, è avvenuto sul prato della cerimonia inaugurale. È stato come incontrare tanti Zii d’Australia, ognuno con le sue storie da raccontare, ognuno con l’Italia nel cuore.
Pareva ci si conoscesse tutti da una vita. Facile è stato intonare ‘Volare‘, a squarciagola, in mezzo a degli increduli giapponesi.
Si ringrazia Mr Allan Furlong (Castellarri) per il prezioso, e preciso, racconto che segue questa breve introduzione.
L’augurio, di chi scrive, è quello di rivederli tutti ai prossimi Europei di categoria a battere anglosassoni e francesi.
Thanks boys, thank you very much!
Day one of the 2015 Touch World Cup saw some entertaining, skilful, high-scoring and wet touch played. After a superb opening ceremony and first round of matches under a blue sky, the heavens opened up in what has been a trend for recent touch tournaments in Australia with torrential rain sweeping in by mid-afternoon Wednesday.
For the Italian Men’s 50s team, the tournament got underway just after midday with the Azzurri matched up against tiny South Pacific nation Niue – a nation with a history of performing very well at Touch World Cups. The Islanders were very much an unknown quantity in the veteran 50s Division, but it soon became apparent that they would struggle to match it with the faster, leaner Italian team.
Despite an early 1-1 score line, Italia rolled methodically to an 11-2 victory highlighted by a hat trick to co-captain Joseph Lancuba inside the first 13 minutes of the game. It was a sign of things to come for Lancuba who, alongside Co-captain Doriano Meta of Wollongong, would lead Italia from the front throughout the tournament. Besides the hat trick from Lancuba the other highlight of the game was the 2 tries scored by Winger Graziano Meta – both set up by his brother Doriano.
Following the game, the weather took a turn for the worse and this meant the evening’s key game against Ireland (10-0 victors over Japan) was played on a heavy, muddy field. This game would be crucial in determining the “pecking order” behind the Australians as the victor would potentially be well placed for a spot in Sunday’s Gold Medal Game.
The game started poorly with Ireland taking a 1-0 lead after just 3 minutes but it soon became apparent that the strike power & combinations of Michelangelo Bonaventura, Doriano Meta, Antonio Iannella & Joseph Lancuba would be too much for the brave Irish.
With the game in the balance, 3-2, late in the 2nd half, the Azzurri finished strongly with Lancuba receiving a quick pass from Meta, then cutting through the defensive line with a lovely “dummy” pass to score, to seal the match. 60 year old veteran Giulio Pomponio then backed up a lovely run from Iannella to score, completing a wonderful a convincing 5-2 victory in heavy conditions.
And so a very successful Day One ended with 2 wins from 2 games, and the team well positioned for a place in Sunday’s Gold Medal Game.
Frustratingly, the inclement weather deteriorated significantly with monsoon-like rain setting in. Any advantage the Italians might have in terms of agility and speed was nullified to some extent by the poor footing underneath. Nevertheless, Italia openedd the scoring in just the 2n minute when ex-Australian international Michelangelo Bonaventura scored off a run around play with Ciullo to score out wide and from there on the game was under wraps. Despite a couple of soft tries to the Japanese, Italia led 4-2 at the break, en route to an 8-2 victory.
Highlights of the game were the 3 try assists by Antonio Iannella, and the try by 61 year old veteran Francesco Tropiano scoring on his International debut. Only weeks earlier, Tropiano’ s Italian World Cup campaign looked like it was over before it had started when a training mishap left the wily campaigner nursing a torn calf. But the opportunity to represent the nation of his parents birth was a prize too precious for Tropiano to concede and he worked under pain and duress to make it back on to the field and take his part in the tournament.
The game over – but the rain still pelting down – both teams joined together for a team photo to celebrate yet another game played in a wonderful spirit that exemplifies the camaraderie evident everywhere at this World Cup.
Conditions did not improve as the day wore on, leading to the postponement of Game 4 v Australia and all play eventually cancelled for Day 3. As a result, play in the 50s tournament was significantly restructured and 4 “second round” matches cancelled except for Italia’s match up against Australia which would now take place on Day 4 (Saturday morning). This would then be followed by a semi final in the evening against Ireland with the winner of that game progressing to the Gold Medal Final on Sunday morning. The Game 4 match up against Australia was now a “dead rubber” thanks to the three victories already earned against Niue, Ireland & Japan that had guaranteed Italia a semi final berth in the revised structure.
However, there remained strong incentive for Italia to play well against Australia – earning credibility. In the end, Australia won 5-2 but the team acquitted itself very well – with Australia “challenged” for the first time in the tournament by the hungry & passionate Italians.
Tries in the 4th, 9th, & 11th minutes essentially sealed the result for Australia but it was no “cake walk” as the last 14 minutes of the game saw Italia really work itself into the game with tries to Lancuba and rookie Winger Gary Colla, who scored a wonderful touch down in the left corner by somehow avoiding the defence with little space to work in. A try for Australia after the full time siren made the score 5-2.
That evening’s Semi Final Vs Ireland was played in ankle deep mud and as a result the attacking strike power of Iannella, Meta, Lancuba & Bonaventura was again largely nullified. This caused significant challenges as it advantaged the slower, less skilful Irish. On a dry track, Italia held an overwhelming advantage and even in wet, rainy conditions such as when the teams played on the Wednesday, Italia had still proven too strong. But in the muddy bog the game became a “lottery” and Italia’s campaign success hung in the balance thanks to the terrible conditions underfoot.
The game started slowly and it wasn’t until 8 minutes before the break that Ireland scored the first try but Italy hit back through a try to Pomponio after lead up work from Iannella, Lancuba & Meta, making it 1-1. A try to winger Gary Colla from a penalty tap as the half time hooter gave Italia the advantage. Italia held on to its 2-1 lead until 8 minutes from full time when Ireland equalised. Sensing the urgency of the situation, Italia abandoned its expansive driving game to establish a more direct rucking pattern that put the Irish under renewed pressure. The tactics worked, and when Winger Gary Colla scored his 2nd try with just 5 minutes remaining – hitting a lovely hole it – looked like the game was over. But the Irish didn’t wilt – striking back again to level the scores with just 90 seconds remaining and sending the game into sudden death overtime. The “drop-off” went for 5 agonising minutes before Bonaventura scored the winning try in the left corner after a long looping pass by Lancuba who had scampered out of dummy half. Italia were into the Wordl Cup Fina against all expectations!!!
After six long months of blood, sweat and tears on both the training paddock and the playing field, the Italians had stamped its footprint on the touch football world with a finals berth. For the Irish, it was the 3rd consecutive World Cup where it had fallen short at the semi final stage. With the playing squad assembled from players as far afield as Perth, Western Australia; Brisbane, Queensland and Griffith, NSW in the south, the dedication and commitment of all concerned had been clearly evident from the very first Sydney training camp back in November. And now a Final beckoned…..
Bonaventura after scoring the match winning try in the semi final
The Final was played at 9am on the pristine surface of Field 1 in the main Coffs Harbour stadium under blue skies and the team was not disgraced. Despite Australia running out 7-2 winners, Italy fought resolutely throughout, leading 2-1 early to genuinely shock the Australians and trailing just 3-2 at the break. The 7-2 final score was “cruel” – it did not accurately reflect the closeness of the contest. Without taking anything away from the worthy winners – Australia – Italia suffered at the hands of a couple of poor decisions that denied a fair try to Doriano Meta and ceded one to the host nation off a pass that was clearly forward. A further try to the Australians after the final hooter was a disappointing addition to the finals coreline. In fact, a truer reflection of the game would have been 5-3 but in the end, Italia came away with a Silver medal, and new found respect of the worldwide Touch community.
This proud band of brothers, coaches and support staff had achieved the wonderful goal of pulling on the playing shirt of the country of their mothers & fathers. It was an honour for each and every one of them, and in the end, no one else could have done better than this group of proud Italian men.
Game 1: Italia 11 Lancuba (5th, 10th, 13th); G Meta (3rd, 39th), Ferraro (8th), Colla (23rd), Pomponio (26th), Vio (30th), D Meta (32nd); Scarfone (37th) defeated Niue 2
Game 2: Italia 5 D Meta (6th); Lauretti (9th); Ciullo (18th); Lancuba (36th); Pomponio (39th) defeated Ireland 2
Game 3: Italia 8 Meta (6th, 14th, 23rd); Bonaventura (2nd); Lancuba (16th); Tropiano (26th); Iannella (32nd); G Meta (39th) defeated Japan 2
Game 4: Australia 5 Jolly (4th); Samin (9th); Wandl (11th); Cheung (17th, 25th) defeated Italia 2 Lancuba (15th), Colla (22nd)
Semi Final: Italia 4 Pomponio (14th); Colla (20th 35th); Bonaventura (45th) defeated Ireland 3
Gold Medal Final: Australia 7 Ayoub (14th, 21st); Ryan (6th, 30th); Cheung (17th); Gillard (23rd); Wandl (40th) defeated Italia 2 Lancuba (4th, 7th)
Try Scorers: Lancuba 8, D Meta 5, Colla 4, G Meta 3, Pomponio 3, Bonaventura 2, Ferraro, Scarfone, Vio, Lauretti, Ciullo, Iannella, Tropiano
TD Assists: D Meta 9, Iannella 8, Lancuba 3, Bonaventura 3, Vio, Ciullo
MVP: Doriano Meta & Joseph Lancuba. Most Improved: Gary Colla
From the co-captain Joseph Lancuba
I would like to take a few moments of your time and put into perspective our unbelievable achievements over the last week at the 2015 Touch World Cup.
Australia had only 3 or 4 players who were 55 years old or older.
We had 13 players who were 55 years old or older. In fact 3 of our players were 60 or older.
Australia had 5 players who are in the Touch Hall of Fame. We have none.
Australia had 100’s of players to choose from whereas our pool was limited to less than 24
Australia’s squad had all played at least at Australian Championships level. We had several players who had not. In fact some of our players such as Frank Tropiano, Graziano Meta and others had not played for several years.
Australia scored 83 tries against 4 countries. Only 12 of those tries were scored against us.
Australia only had 5 tries scored against them. We scored 4 of those tries.
Australia’s core players have played together for over 20 years. We have only played together in one tournament.
Australia had over 500 caps before the tournament. We had 40 caps
We had the second best for and against behind Australia.
A truly incredible performance by all.
To you my fellow team mates:
Dori Meta – what an unbelievable competitor you are. A true gladiator.
Graziano Meta – truly inspirational and always ready to train, no matter what. Be proud of your efforts.
Joe Ferraro – great effort with the injuries you had. Definitely mind of matter.
Gary Colla – you are such an unknown quantity that thoroughly deserved the most improved award.
Rob Lauretti – when the going got tough the tough got going. You were solid as ever.
Francesco Scarfone – if ever anyone deserved to play for Italia, it is you. Your passion and enthusiasm is second to none. Well done.
Michelangelo Bonaventura – the more important the games got the better you performed. Great effort.
Fred Ciullo – definitely the core of our middle. Always there in defence and always ready to drive the ball. What a pleasure it has been to get to know you paesano.
Glen Giarola – you remind me of a little kid wanting to give his best every time you got on the park. Well guess what, you didn’t let anyone down. Dug deep every game.
Giulio Pomponio – gave away 10 years to some players and had to play link instead of winger. A super effort when you look at the quality of players you played against.
Joseph Leonardi – we all know you played your heart out. Great effort.
Rod Vio – a big effort from a big bloke. You didn’t let anyone down either.
Mark Ruggieri – came in late but you should be proud of your efforts considering that you did not train or play with any of us.
Francesco Tropiano – battled injury and we all know that you gave it everything you had. Driving the ball up was outstanding. Great to play with you one last time.
Antonio Iannella – well it is another runner-up – but somehow this feels like we won. If you were 10kgs lighter…watch out Australia! You’re a champion bloke and a true competitor.
Ross Pugliese & Bob Ognenovski – what can we say but “thank you!” We are without doubt all better players as a result of your input. The signs of great coaches.
Allan Furlong (Castellarri) – the man that made this happen. You have changed all our lives for the better forever. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Italia should be proud of every one of us who gave our all to achieve the respect that we deserved as Italia representatives.
Joe Lancuba – Wests Magpies
Dori Meta – Wollongong Devils
Mitch Bonaventura – Sth Qld Sharks
Fred Ciullo – Western Tigers
Gary Colla – Easts Roosters
Joe Ferraro – Taren Point
Glen Giarola – Brisbane Cobras
Antonio Iannella – Wests Magpies
Rob Lauretti – Wests Magpies
Joe Leonardi – Sunshine Coast Pineapples
Gary Meta – Wollongong Devils
Giulio Pomponio – Wests Magpies
Mark Ruggeri – South Qld Sharks
Frank Scarfone – Griffith Stars
Frank Tropiano – Wests Magpies
Rod Vio – Ryde Eastwood Hawks
Ross Pugliese – Coach – Brisbane Cobras
Bob Ognenovski – Asst Coach – Wollongong Devils
Al Furlong (Castellarri) – Manager – Wests Magpies