World Cup - Australia open campaign with a win
Second-half tries from Ben Alexander, Adam Ashley-Cooper, substitute James O’Connor and Digby Ioane grabbed the bonus-point win for the Tri-Nations champions after a tight first half left the scores tied at 6-6 in the interval.
The match started in torrential rain, which had dogged Auckland and the surrounding area throughout the day, and both sides struggled to find any rhythm in the tricky conditions.
Italy had a scare in just the third minute when Gonzalo Garcia was knocked out after an accidental collision with Dan Vickerman’s knee. The Italian centre required lengthy treatment but was eventually able to continue without any trouble.
In the meantime, Quade Cooper had missed his first chance at goal, pulling his kick wide of the right posts to squander Australia’s opportunity to take the lead.
Chances were few and far between and Italy had to wait until nearly the 20th minute before they took a kick at goal. But Mirco Bergamasco was also off the mark with his first attempt, the ball falling 10m short after a kick from the half-way line.
Almost immediately Cooper grabbed his first three points of the game after Italy were penalised at the breakdown before adding another three 10 minutes later when Italy failed to release in the tackle.
But the Azzurri hit back, scoring two penalties of their own in the final 10 minutes of the half, Bergamasco landing both after a scrappy period of play from the Wallabies.
The second half seemed set to follow suit after a poor start from both sides.
But Australia finally made their possession tell when Ioane made a break through the centre before recycling the ball through Will Genia, Kurtley Beale and substitute O’Connor. Eventually Ben Alexander forced his way over the line to break to deadlock.
O’Connor failed to add the extras before the floodgates were open and Australia added a second try just four minutes later when Genia and Cooper combined to find Ashley-Cooper, who ran over unchallenged on the angle.
This time O’Connor did land the extra two points before scoring his own try another five minutes later, with Cooper again being involved when he found the substitute winger for an easy run in.
O’Connor converted his own try before another brilliant set-piece from the Wallabies saw them secure the bonus point; Samo flicking the ball up from the base of the scrum for substitute Luke Burgess, who fed into with Ioane’s surging run.
Another three points were added by O’Connor before Sergio Parisse enjoyed Italy’s most promising break of the match.
The Italian skipper did not have the pace but put in a poor kick before Bergamasco was penalised for not releasing the ball and the move broke down.
Aware the game was won, Australia relaxed for 10 minutes before seeking a grandstand finish as they pushed for a fifth try.
18' Cooper penalty: Australia 3-0
29' Cooper penalty: Australia 6-0
37' Bergamasco penalty: Australia 6-3
40' Bergamasco penalty: Australia 6-6
49' Alexander try: Australia 11-6
54' Ashley-Cooper try: 16-6
55' O'Connor conversion: Australia 18-6
57' O'Connor try: Australia 23-6
59' O'Connor conversion: Australia 25-6
66' Ioane try: Australia 30-6
67' O'Connor conversion: Australia 32-6