Rugby

Australia edge past Italy

2012-11-24 18:12
Berrick Barnes (AFP)

Florence - Australia narrowly held off Italy 22-19 on Saturday after nearly blowing a large lead following a stunning second-half performance from the Azzurri.

An error-strewn first half from Jacques Brunel's side saw the Wallabies take a commanding 19-point lead, but Italy reduced the deficit just before the break and a spirited comeback saw them shut out Australia in the second period.

Italy even had chances to take the lead as it went close to recording its first victory over Australia in 15 meetings.

Luciano Orquera, who had been perfect with each of his previous five kicks, put a penalty heartbreakingly wide in the final minute as Italy missed out on a historic first draw against Australia.

Robert Barbieri, who was earlier yellow carded, scored the try for Italy, the first of 13 points in 15 second-half minutes for the Azzurri.

Nick Cummins turned over for Australia.

There was a long delay 15 minutes into the second half following a serious injury to Mirco Bergamasco, who was taken off on a stretcher.

Brett Sheehan made his first start for Australia but lasted just over half an hour before he was forced off with a knee injury.

Italy took an early lead through Orquera's penalty after Sitaleki Timani was called for an illegal clear out at the ruck.

But Australia were level almost immediately when Barrick Barnes kicked a penalty from close to the halfway line, and Barnes weighed in with another long-range penalty to give Australia the lead in the 15th.

Australia scored its try five minutes later when Kurtley Beale found Cummins in space after some quick passes through the backline, and the Western Force winger turned over at the corner for his second try in two weeks.

Barnes converted before scoring another penalty from more than 50 meters.

Just as it had done in the 42-10 defeat against New Zealand last week, Italy were playing with spirit but - unlike its previous two Tests - the Azzurri were making too many errors and conceding too many penalties.

Australia won yet another penalty on the counterattack and this time Beale stepped up to fire through the posts.

It got worse for Italy on the half hour mark as Barbieri was yellow carded for slapping the ball down out of Sheehan's hands at the ruck. Beale fired in the resulting penalty to extend Australia's lead to 19 points.

Italy cut the deficit minutes later through another Orquera penalty after Australia had been blown up for offside.

However, prop Andrea Lo Cicero was forced off with an injury in his 98th game for Italy. Lo Cicero is now only three caps away from former No. 9 Alessandro Troncon's Italy record of 101 appearances.

Italy then almost scored a try at the end of the first half. Andrea Masi went on a mazy run from the halfway line and booted the ball ahead before giving chase, but his kick had too much power on it and rolled over the deadball line.

The Azzurri did score a try immediately after the break. Timani dropped the ball and Italy hacked it downfield where Barbieri dove over to touch down. Orquera converted.

That seemed to give Italy confidence and it upped the pressure on Australia, much to the crowd's delight.

It reduced the deficit further through another Orquera penalty, shortly after a brilliant kick from the fly-half had been fumbled by Nick Phipps for an Italian lineout five meters out from the line.

Orquera was again perfect with his kick to put Italy just three points behind Australia, moments after Bergamasco was stretchered off.

Italy was putting Australia in great difficulty and it should have taken the lead in the 66th minute but Sergio Parisse fumbled as he fell over the line and the Wallabies were able to rescue the ball.

Digby Ioane was yellow carded in the final minutes after a dangerous tackle on Simone Favaro in the air. Orquera stepped up but his kick flew just wide of the right post.


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