Greece 22 - Malta 24
Greece Smashed As Sparks Fly
Date: 2nd October 2004
Place: Marconi Stadium Sydney Australia
Score: Greece 14 (Tries: Nick Kouparitsas, George Kouparitsas, Andrew Georgiadis Goals: Georgiadis 1)
Italy 58 (Tries: Paul Franze 3, Jason Commisso 3, Daniel Sorbello, Steve Carlon, Andrew Dallalana, Aaron Lewis, Andrew Kaleopa Goals: Dallalana 6, Franze 1)
Teams: Greece - Adam Flectcher, George Siambis, George Kouparitsas, York Antoniou, Tony Gerasimou, Andrew Georgiadis, Dean Antony (C), Jim Pizanias, George Gatis, Nick Nikitaras, Thomas Giatsos, Nick Kouparitsas, Mitchell Karabatsos. Interchange- Kosta Kouparitsas, Michael Tsougranis, Andrew Alexandropoulos, Paul Salamakis.
Italy - Daniel Sorbello, Steve Carlon, Paul Franze, Jason Bulgarelli, Jamie Frizzo, Aaron Lewis, Andrew Dallalana, Anthony Phillips, Jason Commissio, Jack Mazzoleni, Michael Russo, Andrew Kaleopa, Adam Capovilla (C). Interchange - Simone Franchini, Nick Calandra, Anthony Barone, Domenic Mazzoleni.
Referee: Ben Everill
Touch Judges: Andrew Zapantis, Angus Henry
Penalties: Greece 13-5
Scrums: Greece 9-8
Half Time: 32-4
The first ever Rugby League match to be played at Marconi Stadium saw Italy having to much experience thrashing Greece 58-14 in a match that threatened to turn into a boxing exhibition.
Three all in brawls erupted in the opening quarter with Italian second rower Michael Russo on a one man campaign to head hunt the opposition. He was given his marching orders by referee Ben Everill on advice of his more experienced touch judges after a blatant high tackle on Kosta Kouparitsas. The latter did not take the field in the second half as a precaution.
Russo recently announced his retirement from the game after playing for Cronulla this season but could well be facing a lengthy suspension had it been an NRL match.
Russo's high shot sparked another all in brawl with Kosta's brother Nick retaliating. It cost him a stint in the sin bin but both sider were able to settle down and play some good quality football.
The referee who seemed to have little control of both sides in the early stages was able to lay down the law after the send off and finished the game with no other problems.
Italy had 14 out of 17 players playing at level higher than Jim Beam Cup including NRL players Paul Franze and Jason Bulgarelli. Only seven were backing up from last year's encounter that saw Italy scrape home 26-24.
Greece on the other hand had 11 players that had played last season with another two pulling out the day before the game. Three players had not played at all during the year, two were from the student Rugby League with another two playing park football. That statistic alone was evident on the scoreboard.
"It was the experience that won it for us. It is hard to leave blokes out when they are passionate about playing for Italy. They were coming to us" said Italian coach David Riolo.
"The Greek players got the opportunity to play at a higher level and will be better from the experience. They were passionate dont take that away from them"
Greek RL founder Colin Mylonas wasn't too pleased with what went on the paddock.
"I thought it was supposed to be a development game not a World Cup qualifer"
Italy were in control from the start and had the better of possession in the opening 20mins. It took just three minutes for Italian hooker Jason Commisso to split the defence but the try went begging when Daniel Sorbello's pass to Andrew Dallalana went astray.
That sparked the first of the brawls when Nick Kouparitsas came to the aid of his other brother George.
When matters settled down Commisso opened the scoring with a sixth minute try when he scored from dummy half. Dallalana added the extras and then scored himself soon after Anthony Phillips created the gap.
Franze showed why he is a quality player when he started the move before offloading for winger Steve Carlon to race down the sideline and score wide out.
Italy were ahead 16-0 when Russo was given an early shower but that didn't stop them from scoring again when Sorbello cut through the defence and swerved past Adam Fletcher with ease to race 60m to score in the 23rd minute.
Moments later Italy should have been over again when Commisso made the break but the ball was deemed forward by the referee.
Greece finally posted points after 30 minutes of play when Nick Kouparitsas dived over from close range. Three minutes later the scoreboard read 26-4 when Andrew Kaleopa who is half Samoan half Italian scored wide out after quick passing along the backline.
Franze then used his powerful frame to barge over right on half time to give Italy a 32-4 lead.
It took eight minutes of the second term for Italy to score when Commisso scored and Franze scored in the 53rd minute from a scrum move to make it 44-4.
Former Sydney Roosters player Aaron Lewis now playing with Brisbane Souths in the QLD Cup crashed over adjacent to the posts in the 60th minute. Franze's conversion brought up the half century. The latter then collected his hat trick two minutes later after strolling 40 metres down the sideline.
Greece never gave up and finished the game with tries to George Kouparitsas and youngster Andrew Georgiadis who gave the opposition some trouble with some wonderful side steps.
But it was Italy that finished the scoring when Commisso registered his hat trick right on full time.
Aside from Commisso and Franze captain Adam Capvilla was a tower of strength and was well supported by Sorbello, Dallalana and Phillips.
The Greeks were best served by skipper Dean Antony, Georgiadis and Andrew Alexandropoulos.
"I prefer to play for Italy than Australia. There is no better feeling and words can not describe what it meant to me to play. I haven't had the best years this season but it was good to come out here and have a strong game" said Franze whose father is Italian and mother Australian.
"Everyone was pumped up for the game and it showed early in the game. I applaud the Greeks. They never stopped trying but it was our experience that won it for us"
Despite being beaten convincingly Greek coach Steve Georgallis was proud of the boys.
"They never stopped trying and showed plenty of courage. We had limited preparation, many injuries and we only finalised the squad the day before. The loss was down to preparation. They were in camp all week and we should take a leaf out of their book" said Georgallis.
Report from RUGBY LEAGUE REVIEW