THEY may not have found the success they were looking for at Carrington Park on Saturday, but Federation of Italia Rugby League Australia president Reno Santaguida still enjoyed the clashes against Western Division.
Unlike 2016 when FIRLA won two of the four fixtures against the hosts in Bathurst, this year the Rams posted a clean sweep.
The under 16 Rams were dominant in winning 44-4, the under 18s (32-18) and under 20s (28-14) fixtures saw Western fight off determined FIRLA rivals, while in the open-aged match, the hosts stunned the Azzuri with a 50-12 victory.
“I think we probably came in looking like we just had to show up, but obviously the boys here are tough and strong and they showed us some good football,” Santaguida said.
“It’s a great day, fantastic. It’s good for Country Rugby League, it’s good for our boys to come out and see the country. There are a few boys that have never gone past Katoomba, so it’s a great experience for everyone and I hope that it continues.”
In the opens fixture, FIRLA did manage to get within 10 points of the lead with just under an hour of play gone.
It gave Santaguida hope that his side would push on and take the lead, but it was not to be.
“We did look a chance, but obviously with too much dropped ball and all our mistakes – they were just too good for us on the day,” he said.
One of the positives that came from that defeat was the performance of hooker Joey Tramontana. The former New South Wales under 16s skipper and now Canterbury Bulldog was named the best player in a beaten FIRLA side.
He was busy the entire match with darting runs out of dummy half, while he also got through a mountain of work in defence against a sizeable Western Rams forward pack.
“Joseph, he’s part of our World Cup qualifying team, he’s in our 40-man squad, there are only probably three players in this team here who are in our 40-man squad,” Santaguida said.
“He’s small in stature but big in heart. If we had 17 Joseph’s then we’d be very hard to beat.”