Australia back on track with win over Italy

Sat, 20 Nov 16:12:00 2010

Australia recovered from last weekend's painful loss to England with a less-than-emphatic 32-14 win over Italy, outscoring the underdogs by two tries to one.

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Winger Drew Mitchell, who later lost his shorts in a tackle, stretched over the line for the first try nine minutes in after sustained Wallaby pressure while captain Rocky Elsom touched down right at the end.

Berrick Barnes was near-faultless with his place kicking, having been brought into the side in one of five changes from the 35-18 defeat at Twickenham.

The superior visitors were quick on the ball and found the gaps but were prevented from increasing their early lead thanks to stout Italian defence.

Nick Mallett's Italy, beaten by Argentina in their first November test last Saturday, were dreadful with their handling on a dry day and barely got anywhere near the try line in the first half but dominated the scrum with their powerful forwards.

The Azzurri even reduced the deficit to 13-9 at the break thanks to two late penalties, the first of which had the Florence crowd howling with derision as officials struggled to verify it.

Luciano Orquera, playing at fly-half after former Australia rugby league international Craig Gower was ruled out injured, went for the posts from just inside his own half but the touch judges could not tell if the ball had sneaked over the bar.

French referee Christophe Berdos could not get his radio to work so trotted to the sidelines to find an answer from the video referee, but the stadium big screen had already shown several replies which confirmed the penalty was successful.

The Florence stadium, used to holding Fiorentina soccer games and hosting its first rugby test, was far from full but the enthusiastic crowd were treated to an impressive halftime show from performers juggling large, medieval flags.

Italy's players came out flying in the second half, only for captain Sergio Parisse to throw away the ball after a speedy break and winger Tommaso Benvenuti to drop it when clear.

Debutant scrum-half Edoardo Gori also recycled the ball well and quickly but, as usual, Italy were let down by fouls.

The Wallabies, who had centre Adam Ashley-Cooper making his 50th international appearance, recovered their poise and four Barnes penalties re-established control before replacement Robert Barbieri crashed over for Italy's unconverted try.

Two minor brawls failed to sour the occasion as Australia recorded their 15th win in 15 games against the Italians and regrouped for next weekend's final November test in France.

Italy face Fiji in Modena next Saturday.


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