Conor O’Shea says Italy are still a long way from the summit of “the biggest mountain” after they were beaten 26-16 by Ireland in the Six Nations.
The Azzurri threatened to pull off a sensational upset at Stadio Olimpico on Sunday, going in at halftime with a deserved 16-12 lead.
Edoardo Padovani and Luca Morisi touched down to cancel out tries from Quinn Roux and Jacob Stockdale, while Tommaso Allan was on target with two penalties as Italy threw everything at the defending champions in the first half.
Italy was unable to avoid a 20th consecutive defeat in the tournament as Ireland ground it out in the second half, tries from Keith Earls and Conor Murray giving Ireland a bonus-point win.
Ian McKinley missed a last-gasp kick at goal for a losing bonus point, but O’Shea was proud of his players after they gave his country of birth a scare in Rome.
Amazing turnover and break by Tito Tebaldi
Luca Morisi dives over to put @federugby into the lead and send the crowd wild #ITAvIRE #GuinnessSixNations pic.twitter.com/vxNkvwzHST
“The players are a pleasure to be around. The hard part is it’s an unbelievable toll we took out there, in terms of physicality and mentally.” said the Italy head coach.
“There’s a real belief in what we’re doing but we also know it’s the biggest mountain you could ever get.
“I said after the first two games that for the first time we feel we’re properly climbing, but there’s a long way to go on the climb.”
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