Player of the Championship – Classic Winners: Andrea Masi 2011

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Andrea Masi made history in 2011 when he became the first Italian to be named as Guinness Six Nations Player of the Championship.

Andrea Masi made history in 2011 when he became the first Italian to be named as Guinness Six Nations Player of the Championship.

Masi was an ever-present in the back three for Italy during a Championship in which they claimed their-first ever win against France.

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That match in Rome was one of two that Masi scored a try in, while he was part of sterling efforts that saw the Azzurri run Ireland and Wales very close on their own turf.

Ultimately, the side coached by Nick Mallett finished bottom in the standings, but that position didn’t necessarily reflect their performances, not least those of Masi.

So close to an Irish sensation

Italy went into their opening match against Ireland at the Stadio Flaminio having never beaten them in the Guinness Six Nations, but they came agonisingly close to changing all that.

The visitors led what had been tight game 10-6 thanks to Brian O’Driscoll’s try, but the shock was on with five minutes left when Luke McLean went in at the corner down the left for an unconverted try.

That missed kick by McLean, unfortunately for the Azzurri, gave Ireland a means to snatch victory back, as Ronan O’Gara kicked a drop goal in the 78th minute to allow his side to escape with a 13-11 win.

The margin wasn’t quite as narrow the following week, as eventual champions England defeated Italy 59-13 at Twickenham, with Chris Ashton becoming the first player to score four tries in a single Championship match.

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Italy remained competitive on home soil, as they pushed Wales all the way in Round 3 before eventually losing 24-16, with tries from Gonzalo Canale and Sergio Parisse ultimately in vain.

Masi was replaced in the closing stages, but having played the first three matches on the right wing, a move to full-back was to benefit both the player and the team massively.

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In what turned out to be the last Championship match at the Flaminio, Masi was a constant threat whenever he was given the ball and it was his 59th-minute try that dragged Italy back into the contest.

With the hosts 18-6 down, Masi scampered in on the blindside down the left from Fabio Semenzato’s pass, as part of a Man of the Match display.

Italy were a team reenergised from this point and they went on to claim a historic 22-21 victory thanks to Mirco Bergamasco’s penalty with five minutes to go.

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Italy looked to make it back-to-back wins on the final day of the Championship against a Scotland side who hadn’t picked up a victory so far.

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Masi gave them the perfect start by cutting a swathe through the Scottish defence to score after being played in by Canale, but his superb Championship sadly came to a premature end when he went off with an injury after 32 minutes.

Without him, Italy’s hopes in Edinburgh faded and they eventually succumbed to a 21-8 defeat. However, Masi’s sparkling form was enough for him to win 30 per cent of the vote in being named Player of the Championship, ahead of 11 other players.

His teammate Semenzato, who made his debut in Round 2 against England, came second, with Ireland’s Sean O’Brien and England’s Toby Flood making up the top four in a year where Italy showed clear signs of progress.