Cremona - Italy survived a late fightback by Fiji to secure an edgy 37-31 win
over the South Pacific Islanders in the second Test of their November
series on Saturday.
A week after a 50-20 mauling by Australia in
Turin, coach Jacques Brunel had called for a determined performance by
his unconvincing Azzurri.
But on what was the 100th appearance for
No 8 and skipper Sergio Parisse and prop Martin Castrogiovanni, the
hosts were made to work by a determined and at times ill-disciplined
Fiji, who launched a late fighback with two tries in the final eight
Italy went in for half-time with a 20-5 lead, but far
from happy with a ragged performance against a Fiji side that had lost
four players in eight second-half minutes in which Akapusi Qera, Asaeli
Tikoirotuma, Masi Matadigo and Nemani Nasiganiyavi were all sin-binned.
Before then, Italy had been largely unconvincing as Fiji's size and aggression caused problems.
Luca Morisi was floored by a crushing tackle from Tikoirotuma in the
opening minutes and although he returned in time for fly-half Luciano
Orquera to put the first three points on the board with a penalty, he
was soon forced off.
Two minutes later Fiji pounced on a fumble near their try line to grab their opening try.
took possession and ran the length of the field before offloading to
full-back Metuisela Talebulamaijaina to touch down wide of the posts.
Parisse then touched down for the hosts but suspicions that Orquera's pass was forward were soon confirmed by officials.
Orquera then missed a penalty from 30 metres out and with Fiji still leading 5-3 the match took a turn for the worse.
Tempers frayed after Qera up-ended Gori, prompting Castrogiovanni to react angrily with a punch as others joined the fray.
Fiji's ill-discipline left them with 11 men for the closing 12 minutes of the half, allowing Italy to finally capitalise.
was awarded the try after Italy's ruck pushed the big No.8 over the
line, with Orquera adding two points with the boot for the conversion.
Fullback Luke McLean added another try on 33 minutes with Orquera on target to seal a 20-5 half-time lead for the hosts.
replaced Gori with Tobias Botes for start of second half, which
provided a far better demonstration of rugby from both sides but saw the
hosts come close to being stunned at the death.
Fiji replied to
an Orquera penalty soon after the restart with a persistent chase which
gave them a deserved try, after Parisse failed to deal with Talebula's
chip and Nagusa run in to touch down deep in the corner.
narrowly missed the conversion from a difficult angle, while at the
other end Orquera missed a penalty attempt to the left of the posts.
finally began to find their rhythm and, after Gonzalo Canale was hauled
down by Wame Lewaravu, the hosts won a penalty try from the scrum, with
Orquera adding the conversion for a 30-10 lead.
But despite looking in command, Italy took their foot off the pedal.
made up for his past infringement to burst through on the right and
touch down, with Baikeinuku adding the conversion.
replacement Sisa Koyamaibole to the sin-bin 13 minutes from the final
whistle but despite Parisse putting Fijian-born replacement Manoa
Vosawai through to touch down and Tommaso Allan adding an easy
conversion, Fiji fought back defiantly.
Nalaga touched down on 71
minutes, with Baikeinuku converting, and after Parisse was sin-binned,
Nagusa grabbed his second try with Baikeinuku taking the score to 37-31
with five, nervous minutes to play.
Tries: Sergio Parisse, Luke McClean, penalty try, Manoa Vosawai
Conversions: Luciano Orquera (3), Tommaso Allan
Penalties: Orquera (3)
Tries: Metuisela Talebulamaijaina, Timoci Nagusa (2), Nadolo Nasiganiyavi, Napolioni Nalaga
Conversions: Seremaia Baikeinuku (3)