The British Asian Rugby Association (BARA) team, coached by Rugby League legend Garry Schofield, gained revenge for last year’s defeat in Rome with a 30-24 win over Italy in the sunshine at the South Leeds Stadium, writes Rob Wilkinson.
BARA, including dual code international prop Saad Arif who flew in from Pakistan especially for the match, lifted the White Ribbon Trophy, sponsored by KASA, after what was an entertaining and highly competitive contest with Sam Smith grabbing a brace of tries for the hosts and Italian scrum half Alessandro Carbucci claiming a hat-trick of touchdowns.
Italy started strongly with an unconverted try in the corner after just 2 minutes but BARA hit back 7 minutes later when Smith burst through a number of tackles to cross the whitewash. Swifty James added the extras to make it 6-4.
The Italians regained the lead with two tries on 14 and 23 minutes, both unconverted, to inch ahead 12-6.
The BARA side came out firing in the second half with two tries in five minutes. Aaron Henry squeezed in at the corner before Danny Gill rounded off a fine passing move to touch down on 47 minutes. James added the conversions to put BARA 18-12 ahead.
It was all-square on 55 minutes when the Italians took advantage of some poor BARA defence to notch a converted try.
BARA hit back almost immediately with another quick brace of tries from Daryl Grant and Sam Smith on 57 and 63 minutes respectively before a breakaway try from the Italians, five minutes from the end, set up another grandstand finale.
The BARA defence held firm to lift the White Ribbon Trophy aimed at raising awareness of violence by men against women.
Garry Schofield said: “It was another very competitive match just like last year that swung one way then the other. Full credit to Italy who showed a real intensity but I’m delighted we’ve got revenge!”
BARA founder Ikram Butt added: “It’s been another close game that shows how closely matched these two sides are.
“The Italian team representing Lega Italia, the only officially recognized governing body for Rugby League in Italy, have been magnificent once again and are flying the flag for this great game.
“The visit by the Italian squad to Makkah Mosque in Leeds on Friday emphasized our collective interfaith commitment to building bridges between religions and creating stronger communities whilst the White Ribbon Campaign is something that all men should put their support behind,” added Ikram.
Lega Italia founder Pierluigi Gentile said: “We have all enjoyed our time in England and have all learnt a lot about Rugby League in one of the game’s heartlands. The result may not have been what we hoped for but this experience will only strengthen the resolve of Lega Italia to develop the game across Italy.”