Italy qualified for the 2021 World Cup with a six-try performance despite being down to 12 men for most of the second half, after centre Ethan Napoli was sent off for a high tackle, and to 11 for a spell when winger Emanuele Passera was sin binned for a similar offence.
In difficult conditions at the Stadio Communale Teghil in Lignano, two touchdowns in three minutes around the hour mark saw the Italians home.
“I’m very proud of the boys, they played tough,” said Azzurri head coach, Leo Epifania. “Spain threw quite a bit at us, especially when we were down to 12 men for most of the second half. The boys rallied and defended well all night. We are grateful to get another shot at a World Cup for Italy and looking forward to preparing for that.
“Thank you to Spain, it wasn’t easy and the wet, slippery night changes the whole aspect of your attack.”
Spain head coach Darren Fisher was disappointed his side had gone out of the qualification process but refused to allow his players to bow their heads.
“It’s a pretty tough one but it’s been a long journey. We have to keep improving and these are the games we want to be playing in,” he said. “Much credit to the guys, they’ve stuck in there and I think we’ve done a decent job over the past two weeks.”
ITALY 34 : Samuel Doleres, Emanuele Passera, Ethan Natoli, Rinaldo Palumbo, Richard Lepori, Gus Garzaniti, Jack Campagnolo, Alec Susino, Joseph Tramontana, Brenden Santi, Ryan King, Alexander Myles, Gioele Celerino : Subs: Daniel Petralia, Anton laria, Rhys Sciglitano, John Trimboli : Tries: Santi (10), Campagnolo (26), Passera (46, 58), Tramontana (61), King (78) : Goals: Campagnolo 5 : Sent off: Natoli (43 – high tackle) : Sin bin: Passera (65 – high tackle)
SPAIN 4 : Romain Franco, Alexis Escamilla, Daniel Garcia, Alex Doutres, Ludovic Renu, Luc Franco, Romain Palleres, Gaetan Estruga, Miguel Blanco-Charters, Kevin Aparicho, Antonio Puerta, Raphael Garcia, Julien Agullo : Subs: Miquel Tomas, Maxime Garcia, Emir-Walid Bouregba, Anthony Delgado : Try: L. Franco (17) : Sin bin: Agullo (45 – shoulder charge)
Half time: 14-4 : Referee: Benjamin Casty (France)