Wallabies survive Italy scare
November 8, 2008
Australia's Quade Cooper celebrates touching down for his side's crucial score
© Getty Images
Australia saw off an impressive display by hosts Italy to notch a 30-20 triumph in Padova.
A stunning solo try from 20-year-old Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper, with the first touch of his international career, gave the Wallabies a nail-biting victory in front of a vociferous home crowd. Ferocious defence from the Italians nearly got the Azzurri over the line to a famous victory but in the end a young Wallabies' side held their nerve to get home.
The Wallabies were into action in the first few minutes with a neat break from fly-half Berrick Barnes and a teasing grubber kick, resulting in a penalty after captain Stirling Mortlock was tugged back while chasing the kick. Mortlock got up and slotted the penalty from nearly in front on the 22.
The Italians retaliated with some Greco-Roman wrestling at the next lineout which saw hooker Stephen Moore come up with a nasty gash underneath his right eye. But the Italians were back on level terms soon after with Phil Waugh penalized for going over at the breakdown and Italian flyhalf Andrea Marcato landing the penalty to tie things up.
The Wallabies hit back straight away with Timana Tahu scything through two or three Italian tackles midfield and then getting a perfect one handed pass away to his Waratahs team mate Lachie Turner who easily outpaced the Italian cover defence on a thirty metre sprint to the line to score his first Test try. The try would have come as a massive boost to Tahu, getting his first start since the big loss to the Springboks in Johannesburg.
Another breakdown infringement gave Marcato another chance and the diminutive Italian fly-half banged it over from 40 metres to reduce the arrears. A minute later there was disappointment and frustration for Barnes as he trudged from the field to be replaced by Matt Giteau.
It didn't stop the Wallabies as seconds later Mark Chisholm went close only to lose control of the ball as he reached out to score following some good lead up work by winger Digby Ioane and Mortlock. From the resulting scrum Australia won a penalty and Giteau landed the goal from close range to stetch the Wallabies' lead.
Giteau looked through again two minutes later but some spirited defence from Italy held the Wallabies out before fullback Andrea Masi launched a long range counter attack followed by a kick ahead that dribbled over the dead ball line. But the Italians were back to within two points soon after with a superbly taken drop goal from 30 metres out by Marcato.
Both teams however seemed intent on playing attacking rugby but mistakes led to numerous moves breaking down. The Wallabies forwards, who many felt would be shaded by the more experienced Italians, were more than holding their own in the admittedly scrappy scrums and line outs. But suddenly the Italians were in front on the half hour after a well-worked move from the scrumbase on the Wallabies 22 saw Marcato put Masi into a gap, before the Azzurri fullback passed to winger Mirco Bergamasco who stumbled over out wide for the try.
Marcato missed the conversion from the corner but nearing half time the home team were surprising leaders. A penalty for knocking the ball down against Italy gave Giteau the chance to even things up just before the break and the Wallabies fly-half made no mistake from 40 metres out.
The Italians were disrupted with just five minute gone in the second half with Marcato going off with a possible rib injury and Luciano Orquera coming on. Another scrum penalty against Italy, from their own feed, gave Giteau a chance to put Australia back in front and the fly-half chipped the ball over from the 22 to edge his side ahead once more.
Some good phase play from the Wallabies gave Giteau another chance just two minutes later, after Italy infringed at the breakdown under pressure, and once again he was accurate, making it four out of four from four. But two minutes later Tahu was penalized for holding on at the ruck and Orquera landed the penalty from 30 metres out straight in front to bring it back to 20-17.
Just short of the hour Italy won a scrum penalty as the Wallabies failed to bind properly, and Orquera struck the ball sweetly from 30 metres out on an angle to make it 20-all with just 20 minutes to play. With the Italian crowd lifting their side, Richard Brown was penalized for coming in at the side, metres out from the Wallabies line. But from a sharp angle Orquera missed the chance to put Italy in front.
Wycliff Palu came on to beef up the Wallabies pack along with Waratahs prop Sekope Kepu, on for his first cap, then Deans made the excpetionally gutsy call that decided the match.
With the score locked up at 20-all in a Test match, Deans showed amazing faith in his youngest Wallabies and brought on to the field two more uncapped Wallabies - young Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper coming on for Adam Ashley-Cooper and 18-year-old James O'Connor becoming the second youngest Wallaby of all time, coming on for Tahu.
And less than a minute into his international career it was Cooper who decided the course of the match. The 20-year-old ignited the Wallabies backline as he took a pass from Giteau and stepped through three Italian tackles on a stunning thirty metre run to score an exceptional solo try.
O'Connor then led to Australia getting some breathing space after he was held back by an Italian defender as he tried to follow up a Giteau break. The Western Force fly-half landed the difficult penalty attempt from wide out to give the Wallabies a ten point buffer which they held for the rest of the game.
Italy: Masi, Robertson, Canale, Garcia, M. Bergamasco, Marcato, Canavosio, Perugini, Ghiraldini, Nieto, Del Fava, Bortolami, Sole, M. Bergamasco, Parisse.
Replacements: Ongaro, Aguero, Reato, Zanni, Toniolatti, Orquera, Pratichetti.
Australia: Ashley-Cooper, Turner, Mortlock, Tahu, Ioane, Barnes, Burgess, Alexander, Moore, Dunning, Chisholm, McMeniman, Mumm, Waugh, Brown.
Replacements: Polota-Nau, Kepu, Palu, Pocock, Giteau, Cooper, O'Connor.
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand).
The rolling maul is becoming an increasingly potent attacking weapon. Conor O'Shea looks at the difficulties of stopping it
The news of James Horwill, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Dan Carter's respective transfers will open the floodgates, writes Tom Hamilton
Kiwi coaches can be found far and wide across the globe, and Murray Mexted believes the All Blacks benefit every bit as much as their rivals
Clermont, Toulon, player burnout, Sam Burgess and a farewell to Adams Park - Monday Maul looks back at the weekend's action