Rugby World Cup 2011
Aussies lay down RWC marker
Digby Ioane (Gallo Images)
North Harbour - The Wallabies emerged from a first half struggle to turn on the after-burners for a comprehensive 32-6 win over Italy to spectacularly open their World Cup campaign here on Sunday.
Locked up at 6-6 at halftime after first-half trench warfare, Australia cut loose with 26 unanswered second half points to score a bonus point four-try victory and safely launch their bid for a third Webb Ellis Cup.
The Wallabies mastered the accomplished Azzurri forward pack in blustery conditions to set the platform for their exciting backline to unleash their speed and ball skills.
Flyhalf Quade Cooper started with crowd boos but finished to cheers as he provided the final pass for three tries.
Winger James O'Connor also paid his penance for missing an official pre-World Cup team function and entered the match off the bench seven minutes after halftime to take over the goalkicking duties from Cooper.
Such was the Wallaby dominance that coach Robbie Deans was able to bring off some of his big guns - Will Genia, Rocky Elsom, Dan Vickerman and David Pocock - and save them for coming battles.
Cooper's first penalty attempt was greeted with boos from New Zealanders in the crowd following his 'public enemy number one' run-ins with All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.
Australia got their first points after a whistle-happy opening 18 minutes when hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini was penalised for a late hit on Cooper.
Cooper, again to boos, landed the penalty with points hard earned in the swirling wind.
The Wallaby forwards hammered through the phases inside Italy's quarter before another penalty by Cooper carved out a 6-0 after 30 hard-fought minutes.
The Italian pack had their first sustained drive inside Australia's half and earned a penalty which winger Mirco Bergamasco kicked for 6-3 minutes before the interval.
Cooper then inexplicably elected to run a retrieved kick rather than kick it out and gifted Bergasmasco a second penalty in front right on halftime to draw the teams level.
The Wallaby scrum was more than holding its own against the Azzurri as O'Connor was introduced after 47 minutes for Anthony Fainga'a with Adam Ashley-Cooper moving into the centres.
Digby Ioane broke free and linked with Radike Samo and Kurtley Beale before prop Ben Alexander powered over from a maul close to the line in the 51st minute for the Wallabies to edge to a 11-6 lead.
Gaps starting opening up in the tiring Italian defence and Cooper put Ashley-Cooper over untouched for the Wallabies' second try five minutes later as the Australians stormed to a 18-6 lead.
O'Connor got into the act for the team's third try off an inside ball from Cooper with the Wallabies in full flow.
Ioane clinched the scoring bonus point with the fourth try off Cooper's pass again 13 minutes from time.
Italy's day finished on a worrying note with talisman tighthead prop Martin Castrogiovanni limping off near the end with an apparent groin injury.
- Tries: Ben Alexander, Adam Ashley-Cooper, James O` Connor, Digby Ioane. Conversions: O` Connor (3). Penalties: Quade Cooper (2).
- Penalties: Mirco Bergamasco (2).