Wallabies power past plucky Italy
June 20, 2009
Australia defeated Italy 34-12 at Melbourne's Etihad Stadium to claim the Test series 2-0 after last weekend's win in Canberra.
The Wallabies pulled clear thanks to tries from hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, centre Ryan Cross, Lachie Turner and a brace from replacement Adam Ashley-Cooper, while Luke McLean landed four penalties for the Azzurri.
Both sides made wholesale changes for the game, with Australia coach Robbie Deans resting his skipper Stirling Mortlock and fly-half Matt Giteau. Italy boss Nick Mallett also rung the changes, with Australian-born ex-rugby league star Craig Gower getting a new half-back partner in Tito Tebaldi.
The Wallabies made a sloppy start with their new combinations, conceding an early penalty that was confidently put away by Italy's Australian-born fullback Luke McLean. Italy looked to put the Wallabies, in particular O'Connor, under pressure with the high-ball and despite the young fullback dropping his first catch of the night the home side coped well and used the tactic to their advantage.
The Italians were hampered by some loose play on the floor, with the first Wallabies try coming from quick ball at a turnover. Scrum-half Luke Burgess burst clear of the Italian defence, finding nimble prop Benn Robinson in support. As Robinson was felled the ball made its way to Quade Cooper, who floated a miss pass out to winger Peter Hynes. Hynes was able to offload as he was bundle in to touch, hooker Polota-Nau the grateful recipient of the try in the corner.
O'Connor was entrusted with the goal-kicking duties in the absence of Giteau, missing the conversion but adding a penalty shortly after following some superb work from Smith on the floor. Quick ball was again the key to the Wallabies second try, scored by Cross after some excellent approach play. The former rugby league player made the initial break before rounding off the score, his dart putting first Gonzalo Canale and then scrum-half Tebaldi under pressure when the ball broke loose from a kick.
Tebaldi was swamped by Australian defence, allowing Cooper to smuggle the ball away from the ruck. With Barnes marked out wide Cross provided the option on an inside run, going over to score without an Italian hand placed on him. O'Connor was on target with the kick.
McLean drew three points back for the Azzurri as Gonzalo Garcia grew in to the game in the centre, the red-head straightening the line well and committing a host of Wallaby defenders with a powerful break.
The Italians were growing in confidence as half-time approached only for Ashley-Cooper, on as a blood replacement for Hynes, to land a body blow with the half-time siren seconds away. Barnes was the orchestrator, finding Ashley-Cooper on the surge. The ball moved wide to Turner on the overlap, the Waratahs wing switching the ball to Ashley-Cooper to score his eighth Test try.
The second period was kind to the Italians, whose aggressive work on the floor began to pay dividends. Garcia continued to carry well and the magnificent Parisse was his usual industrious self. The Stade Francais No.8 took several heavy blows but continued to power his side's effort.
The Wallabies showed a level of alarm when turning down a chance to put the ball in to the corner, Barnes electing to kick for the posts with the score at 20-9. The Reds man hooked his kick wide however, leading to a period of pressure on the home side.
McLean added a long-range penalty to draw his side to within eight points of the Wallabies, whose accuracy let them down in several key phases as the half wore on. Scrum-half Burgess was slow to react to several opportunities in Italian territory, where quick ball would have seen certain overlaps exploited.
The Wallabies failed to string together any meaningful phases, and were undoubtedly rescued by their quality out wide. Their fourth score was an individual effort from Turner, the winger having the pace and awareness to pick a line through some static Italian defence and race away unopposed.
Ashley-Cooper rounded off the scoring with this second try, thanks to some quick hands from Barnes, Valentine and Mumm, again exploiting the tired Italian defence to straighten up and scythe through under the posts. Up next for the Azzurri it's a trip to face the All Blacks, while the Wallabies welcome Marc Lievremont's France.
Australia: James O'Connor; Lachie Turner, Ryan Cross, Quade Cooper, Peter Hynes; Berrick Barnes, Luke Burgess; Pekahou Cowan, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Alexander, James Horwill, Dean Mumm, Peter Kimlin, David Pocock, George Smith (capt)
Replacements: Stephen Moore, Benn Robinson, Nathan Sharpe, Phil Waugh, Josh Valentine, Matt Giteau, Adam Ashley-Cooper
Italy: Luke McLean; Giulio Rubini, Gonzalo Canale, Gonzalo Garcia, Alberto Sgarbi; Craig Gower, Tito Tebaldi; Matias Aguero, Franco Sbaraglini, Fabio Staibano, Tommaso Reato, Marco Bortolami, Jean Francois Montauriol, Simone Favaro, Sergio Parisse (capt)
Replacements: Leonardo Ghiraldini, Salvatore Perugini, Quintin Geldenhuys, Alessandro Zanni, Giulio Toniolatti, Kris Burton, Roberto Quartaroli
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