Wallabies survive Italian attack
JUNE INTERNATIONAL REPORT: Australia produced two late tries as they survived a fightback from Italy to win their one-off rugby international 40-27 in Brisbane on Saturday.
The Wallabies were 21-13 ahead at half-time and then increased their lead to 28-13, before Italy scored two converted tries to get within a point at 28-27.
But Bernard Foley and Reece Hodge both crossed in the final minutes to stave off the threat of a second straight defeat after last week's shock loss to Scotland.
The win will do little to ease the pressure on the hosts, who were criticised ruthlessly both by media and supporters following the 19-24 loss to Scotland.
Italy, the Six Nations wooden-spooners, came into the match after consecutive losses to Scotland and Fiji and without a win against Australia in their 16 previous meetings.
The Italians started the game off in fine style they enjoyed most of the possession. They opened the scoring in just the second minute with a Tommaso Allan penalty, before they were denied minutes later when lock Dean Budd appeared to score in the corner.
However, the television match official ruled that wing Giovambattista Venditti's boot had scraped the touchline with one fingertip still touching the ball as he passed infield to Budd.
The Wallabies, who had hardly been in the Italian half, hit the lead after 15 minutes when Sefa Naivalu scorched 40 metres down the touchline to score.
Foley converted to make it 7-0, which became 14-0 minutes later when Israel Folau scored in the corner.
Folau was in again 10 minutes before the break when inside centre Karmichael Hunt found the fullback with a long, flat pass to beat the Italian defence.
However, the Italians struck back just before the break with a superb try to outside centre Michele Campagnaro, who burst onto a ball following a midfield break by Venditti and outpaced the Wallaby defence.
Five minutes after the restart Naivalu crossed for his second following some slick backline work from the Wallabies, including a between-the-legs pass from Foley.
The Italians refused to give in and they got back into the contest when Wallabies wing Dane Haylett-Petty spilled a cross-field kick into the arms of Italian fullback Edoardo Padovani, who scored in the corner.
Australia's lead shrank to 28-27 when replacement Tommaso Benvenuti intercepted a Rory Arnold pass in the Australian 22 and crossed despite Folau's desperate tackle.
The Wallabies lost prop Toby Smith to a yellow card for repeated scrum infringements, but Italy also went down to 14 men when Abraham Steyn was yellow-carded for playing the ball while on the ground.
Foley burst through the Italian defensive line to settle Australian jitters, and then Reece Hodge grabbed a try at the death as he burst down the line.
Man of the match: Isreal Folau, already scored a double in the first half to become the First Wallaby in history to score multiple tries in three consecutive Test matches. For the Italians Andries van Schalkwyk had a break while flyhalf Tommaso Allan kept the scoreboard ticking with his boot. But our nod goes to Dane Haylett-Petty, who was pure class - solid in defence, and his awareness on attack was just amazing.
Moment of the Match: Tommaso Benvenuti's try in the 69th minute, which set up a dramatic ending. The replacements' interception was followed by remarkable footwork.
Villain of the match: Nobody at all. There were some villainess moments like the two yellow cards in the closing minutes and disallowed try of Italy in the opening minutes, but the match was played in good spirit overall.
Tries: Naivalu 2, Folau 2, Foley, Hodge
Cons: Foley 5
Tries: Campagnaro, Padovani, Benvenuti.
Cons: Allan 3
Pens: Allan 2
Yellow cards: Toby Smith (Australia,72- collapsing the maul, Abraham Steyn (Italy, 75- playing the ball on the ground)
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Sefa Naivalu, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Lopeti Timani, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Stephen Moore (captain), 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Toby Smith, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Sam Carter, 20 Jack Dempsey, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Reece Hodge.
Italy: 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 Giovambattista Venditti, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 7 Maxime Mbanda, 6 Francesco Minto (captain), 5 Dean Budd, 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Ornel Gega, 17 Federico Zani, 18 Pietro Ceccarelli, 19 Marco Lazzaroni, 20 Abraham Steyn, 21 Edoardo Gori, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Tommaso Benvenuti.
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)