Italy came agonisingly close to a famous Six Nations victory this afternoon, only for a questionable refereeing decision to cost them at the the death in their game against Scotland.
The Italians have won only one game in the competition in the last seven years, which came against Wales in the 2022 edition. They had not won at Murrayfield since 2015.
They probably should have done so today.
While Italy were largely outplayed over the course of the 80 minutes, they found themselves with an opportunity to win the game in the closing stages. Trailing by five points with a couple minutes to go, Kieran Crowley's side were launching a sustained attack on the Scottish line.
The home side did everything in their powers to stop the opposition crossing the line, often by illegal methods. Angus Gardner warned the Scots on a couple of occasions about being in offside positions, twice penalising them.
However, when the game came down a decisive moment, he failed to spot that an offside Scottish player had knocked the ball out an Italian hand. Instead of giving another penalty to Italy, he gave a scrum to the home team. They would go on to score a fourth try moments later.
Hat-trick hero Blair Kinghorn seals the bonus-point win in style as Scotland decide against kicking the ball dead and instead run it the length of the field
Scotland 26-14 Italy pic.twitter.com/tJYzBERzgo
— RTÉ Rugby (@RTErugby) March 18, 2023
Many felt that Italy were incredibly unfortunate.
Angus Gardner hammered for Scotland-Italy decision
While there is no guarantee that Italy would have gone on to win the game, it seemed incredibly likely that they would find the try they needed considering the pressure they were putting on. In fact, this could have been deemed as a yellow card offence by the Scots considering the infringements they had committed in the couple of minutes leading up to that moment.
Speaking on RTÉ after the game, Stephen Ferris said that the Italians had a right to feel aggrieved about the call.
It's a referee as that, it's as simple as that. He had warned them twice, given a couple of penalties. You see Michele Lamaro straight at the referee lambasting his decision there.
I know it's a bit of a dead rubber game, but at the same time Italy had an opportunity to win the game. Scotland could have defended their line and went up the other end to score a try, who knows what would have happened?
But I think Kieran Crowley, the rest of the coaching staff, and the players on the pitch will feel aggrieved that the decision went against them in the final moments.
He wasn't the only one who felt that way.
A number of those who watched the game took to social media to share their disbelief over the decision.
How is that not offside against Scotland? Italy robbed 😬 #SCOvITA
— Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) March 18, 2023
Terrible decision. #scotland were clearly offside and slapped the ball. Very poor decisio, poor #italy #SCOvITA
— MissNíRiain (@RiainMiss) March 18, 2023
Why can’t the ref review a clear offside (for the 3rd time in a row) preventing a potential match winning try 3 metres out right at the end of the game? Scotland deserve nothing from that game, not really sure Italy deserve to win either but it was so clearly offside.#SCOvITA
— Chris (@csimpson1993) March 18, 2023
Scotland offside again.
Italy are just reffed differently and it costs them the game.#SCOvITA
— El_Poderoso (@ronanodowd) March 18, 2023
Absolutely. Scotland were a mile offside at that ruck.
— Oisín Cleary (@oisoftheclears) March 18, 2023
Angus Gardner just cost Italy the win #scoIta
— Stephen Ring (@ringers89) March 18, 2023
This Scottish try brought to you by Angus Gardner.
— Citroën Berlinguer (@mantodamaurova) March 18, 2023
In fact, this wasn't the only decision they felt that Angus Gardner got wrong on the day.
They felt that he had been consistently harsh on Italy over the course of the 80 minutes.
Angus Gardner destroying Italy here. Atrocious decisions leading directly to Scottish tries. #SCOvITA
— Risteárd Cooper (@RisteardCooper) March 18, 2023
Any danger of Angus Gardner ever penalising Scotland not supporting their weight when jackalling? #SCOvITA
— Olly Moore (@Olly_Moore) March 18, 2023
Im sorry Angus Gardner has got to be joking. Must be. Classic Tier 2 reffing. Go and look at the other side rather than having your mind made up at the first scrum. #SCOvITA
— Conor Fletcher (@ConorFletcher5) March 18, 2023
Ultimately, the decision was made and Scotland came away with the win.
Despite some good performance in this year's tournament, Italy will end the 2023 Six Nations without a win and bottom of the table.
On another day, they certainly could have come away with a win in Murrayfield.