RBS SIX NATIONS ENGLAND 36 ITALY 11
For all the proliferating science and increasing technicality of the modern international game one tried and Tested maxim remains true.
It is a rule forged in the fires of trial and error, one underpinned by a century of primary evidence and one confirmed yet again at Twickenham on Saturday.
Don’t play a flank-forward at scrum half.
Italy did just that for just half a game against England and it was enough to hand their hosts the decisive advantage.
Instead of coming and putting a fragile home team, one that had lost its last three matches, under pressure, a square peg in a round hole immediately conceded the initiative and allowed Martin Johnson’s men to put enough clear blue water between themselves and the Azzurri, that they were never seriously troubled on the scoreboard.
Indeed by the time Bergamasco departed at the interval, in favour of one-cap wonder Giulio Toniolatti, England were 22-6 up, over the hill and gone.
Although Toniolatti was far from the legendary Italian No 9 Alessandro Troncon – at times he looked totally overwhelmed by the pace at the highest level – it says something about the paucity of Bergamasco’s effort that the 25-year-old was still a considerable improvement.
Where one of Bergamasco’s chips hit Steve Borthwick in the chest, the young Roman at least got the ball airborne. He didn’t cost his team a fly-half either.
Poor Andrea Mercato, Italy’s great play-making hope, managed just half an hour playing outside Bergamasco before the strain of fumbling around on the floor or leaping like a salmon just to get his hands on the ball became too much.
Luke McLean, he of Italian grandparentage, came on in his stead and once Nick Mallett’s men had the Australian and Toniolatti at half-back, they looked England’s match virtually step for step.
But it was too late. Andy Goode had opened the scoring in 94 seconds - by which time Bergamasco had already been warned for injudicious use of his feet.
He then wasted Italy’s first attacking position in the tenth minute by passing behind Mercato costing his side 20 metres and a precious opportunity.
Buoyed by their opponents’ instability Harry Ellis took turnover ball, adroitly given to him by the splendid James Haskell, to the line for 12-0.
And then, just short of the half-hour with Mercato receiving treatment at the other end of the pitch, Bergamasco slung an aimless pass over the head of inside-centre Gonzalo Garcia, which Goode hacked forward. Riki Flutey accepted a kind bounce for his first try in five caps.
Goode converted and added a 38th minute penalty and with just six points from the boots of McLean and Mercato the half ended. Job done.
Why all this attention on an Italian when the Red Rose won by 25 points? Because he was England’s best source of attacking threat.
When they had to construct their own openings they laboured about like a lame water buffalo trying to extricate itself from quicksand.
While Ellis had a decent afternoon – and was named official man of the match – one should not be blinded by his two tries, the second of which came in the 54th minute following a break by Flutey.
His performance was adequate rather than spectacular and in truth his most impressive achievement was that he was not Bergamasco.
Outside him Goode did not quite do what it said on the tin. There was some Goode, some bad and plenty indifferent.
Having announced his selection with the early try and seized on another gift from the House of Bergamasco for Flutey’s, the former Coventry colt didn’t play especially well.
Only once did he get the back-line moving at pace, in the 83rd minute when he combined with Delon Armitage to put Mark Cueto over.
For the rest of the time he found himself sucked into a kicking contest from which he did not emerge with much credit.
Quite why he didn’t put the ball out and give Nick Kennedy the chance to plunder a creaking Italian line-out more often was a mystery.
Like the rest of his team he will have to play considerably better in Cardiff next Saturday if he is not to be embarrassed by the Welsh.
Indeed Lee Byrne and Shane Williams must be salivating at the prospect of so many counter-attacking opportunities. And whoever they pick, Mike Phillips or Dwayne Peel, Wales will have one of the best scrum-halves in the northern hemisphere on the pitch too.