YORK City Knights ace James Saltonstall played at full-back as Italy went to the top of the European Championship 'B' table by beating previously unbeaten Russia 22-18 amid heavy rain in Gemona.
Head coach Paul Broadbent - the former Knights player-boss - was not at the game as he failed to get through Manchester Airport because of an issue over a damaged passport.
Saltonstall, a non-playing member of Italy's World Cup squad last year, who qualifies for the Azzurri through his mother, made his tournament bow, though, as one of few non-domestic players involved.
Italy tries came from left-winger Chris de Meyer and right-winger Alessio Curione, with two long-range interceptions. Matt Bradley, the Gloucestershire All Golds half-back, who will be playing against Saltonstall's Knights on Sunday, kicked two conversions and three second-half penalties.
The Bears replied through Dmitriy Bratko, Ruslan Izmailov and Petr Botnarash, with Aleksandr Lysokon goaling all three.
Italy assistant-coach Kelly Rolleston said: “A couple of interception tries kept us in the game when we were struggling but in the second half we played good field position in the difficult conditions.
"It has been an excellent tournament so far and a great experience for the players – we had three from Serie 'A' on debut today."
Russia conceded nine penalties in the second half, culminating in the late sin-binning of Anatoly Grigorev and the dismissal of Ruslan Izmailov after the whistle both for dissent.