The Wallabies have spluttered their way to a relieving 32-14 victory over Italy at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence.
Australia’s execution let them down badly as they endured a frustrating afternoon, managing to come up with just two tries despite making enough line breaks – mostly through man of the match Quade Cooper – to score a dozen. The good news was the boot of centre Berrick Barnes correcting the Wallabies’ woeful recent goalkicking record with eight from nine. The still struggling scrum was penalised six times with the Italians generally dominating the set piece, and that domination contributed to a late try to replacement Robert Barbieri that briefly gave the home side, playing without injured chief playmaker Craig Gower, a sniff. In the end Australia’s physicality around the park and Italy’s own inability to make their passes stick when opportunity arrived proved the difference. “It was a genuine Test match, the boys had to work hard for it,” coach Robbie Deans said. “We were a little bit impatient in the first half, created a lot, didn’t conclude a lot. “To Italy’s credit they hung in there. “The blokes showed a lot of composure and earnt the result.” Rare airing of anthem’s second verse The Wallabies had already been caught out by a rare airing of the second verse of the national anthem by an Italian brass band, but it looked like their backline would be on song when winger Drew Mitchell crashed over in just the eighth minute. But Australia’s 13-9 lead at the break looked shaky and they were lucky not to find themselves behind when runaway Italian captain Sergio Parisse threw the ball into touch. If that typified the Azzurri’s afternoon, Australia steadied with Barnes knocking over penalty goals in the 51st and 54th, 60th and 68th minutes for 25-9. “He clearly kicked very well, that’s the first time he’s had that responsibility from the start of the Test until the end and it was an exceptional performance,” Deans said. Barbieri’s try, when he picked up a loose ball at the back of a scrum, made it 25-14 but the missed conversion from winger Mirco Bergamasco took the wind out of Italy’s sails. The decision from French referee Christophe Berdos, via the TMO, took an eternity, one of several decisions that seemingly took forever, including one on whether a penalty goal from Italy had gone over. Australian captain Rocky Elsom scored a soft, late five-pointer when he picked up a ball that had squirted out of a scrum in attacking position to stroll over. Italy coach Nick Mallett praised his side’s defence. “Australia’s a team that can score tries from anywhere, they’re an extraordinarily good attack,” he said. “To hold them to only 13-9 at halftime was the best result possible.” Australia’s victory ended a two-match losing streak on tour but they will be looking for improvement when they take on Six Nations champions and world No.4 side France next weekend.