Australia survive second half Azzurri fightback
FLORENCE, Italy - Australia held on through a spirited fightback to escape from Florence with a 22-19 win over Italy on Saturday.
Italy came into the match buoyed by a comparatively solid performance against the All Blacks before succumbing to a flurry of late tries and a 42-10 defeat in Rome.
Hopes were high the Azzurri could produce a repeat performance and perhaps come away with a result to be proud of against the Wallabies.
However in a true game of two halves, it took Jacques Brunel’s side until after the interval to put serious points on the board and start putting the Wallabies in trouble.
With 10 minutes remaining Australia held a three-point lead at 22-19 and were on the back foot as Brunel made a series of replacements which breathed life into the Azzurri.
They were given a chance to draw level with two minutes remaining but Luciano Orquera missed a penalty goal from 40 metres out.
Moments later a superb run by outside centre Adam Ashley-Cooper took Australia to within 10 metres of the tryline.
But as the clock ticked down Australia, still in possession, invited boos and whistles around the Artemio Franchi stadium when Berrick Barnes kicked the ball into touch, effectively ending the game.
Australia made four changes to the side that beat England 20-14, with scrum-half Brett Sheehan handed his first Test start, Drew Mitchell coming in at left wing and flanker Scott Higginbotham returning to the starting XV following a two-match ban.
Coach Robbie Deans made only one change in the pack with Stephen Moore replacing Tatafu Polota Nau at hooker.
Buoyed by Italy’s performance in Rome, coach Brunel made only two changes, strengthening the pack with Robert Barbieri returning to the third row and Quintin Geldenhuys coming in at lock.
Italy dominated the scrums, but struggled to pose any threat to the visitors in an error strewn first-half which the Wallabies bossed.
An Orquera penalty gave Italy a 3-0 lead in the third minute but a Barnes penalty soon after had Australia level.
Barnes kicked another penalty on the quarter hour and Italy were made to pay for slack defence when Nick Cummins ran in for Australia’s only try of the match on 18 minutes.
Barnes kicked the conversion and followed up with a penalty in the 24th minute to put the Wallabies firmly in the lead.
Despite their best attempts Italy were struggling to get out of their own half and fell further behind when Kurtley Beale kicked a penalty and then followed up with a second when Barbieri was shown a yellow card.
An Orquera penalty minutes before the end of the first half brought the scores to 6-22 but to their credit Italy emerged with intent for the second period.
Only a minute after the restart Barbieri claimed the Azzurri’s try when he ran into the in-goal area to touch down after the ball had been kicked through, with Orquera converting.
When Orquera kicked a penalty to take the scores to 16-22, the fighback was on.
The confidence did wonders for Italy, who while still dominating at the scrum, had the Wallabies pinned back as they began finally to create promising passing sequences.
Italy had Australia pinned mostly in their own half, until Ashley-Cooper’s moment of near glory for the visitors, who held on for a win which they will remember for a long time.