The Wallabies have got their tour back on track with a hard fought 26-7 win over Italy in Padova. A double to Marika Koroibete and tries to Taniela Tupou and a late score from Willa Genia sealed the result with the final scoreline looking comfortable but it was anything but that in the first half.
A determined Italian defence and some questionable refereeing decisions made the Wallabies work hard before they opened the scoring after 30 minutes and did enough throughout the game to keep the hosts at bay.
Both sides were full of running in the opening five minutes with the Italians going closest to scoring to number 8 Braam Steyn but the Wallabies were saved by his foot going into touch and the covering defence after former Western Force player Jayden Hayward sliced through a gap in the leadup.
There was much talk about the non taking of shots at penalty goal after last weeks match and when the Wallabies worked into kicking range on the back of three penalties, there was little hesitation in taking the shot but Matt Toomua’s attempt from 40 metres out was just wide.
There was a contentious decision after 13 minutes after referee Pascal Gauzere ruled out an Italian try for offside after Jake Gordon threw an intercept to his counterpart Tito Tebaldi with replays suggesting it a harsh call. But it was another warning shot to the Wallabies attack that was struggling for territory and looking out of sorts in patches in the opening 15 minutes.
They could have taken the lead shortly after but knocked the ball on near the tryline and a resulting penalty from the scrum gave Italy an easy out. If not for the brilliance of David Pocock in earning a ruck penalty five metres out, Italy could have opened the scoring.
The Wallabies attack finally clicked into gear on the 30th minute mark with a try to Marika Koroibete, in for the injured Jordan Petaia, after some good work from Samu Kerevi who the Italian’s had trouble getting to ground with his strength. Adam Ashley-Cooper and David Pocock were also involved in the play and Poocck could have scored himself but handed off to Koroibete to score under the posts.
This seemed to give the Wallabies a badly needed shot of confidence and five minutes later Koroibete had his second try, this time over on the right wing as the backline looked to have finally got on the same page with their attack. Toomua’s second conversion gave the Wallabies a 14-0 lead into the break after one last chance from the Italian’s following a penalty came to nothing.
The Wallabies started the second half well and added another try after just three minutes with Taniela Tupou starting and finishing a try that involved some outrageous handling by the big man as he offloaded with one hand to Dempsey and then got the ball back for the try, via numerous looks from the TMO.
The good work from the Wallabies was undone by a lapse in concentration with a loose pass from Foley going to ground and winger Mattia Bellini collected the ball and ran to the line to make it 21-7.
Around the 50 minute mark the Wallabies started to make a number of changes with some tactical and some injury enforced, including Pocock going off with what appeared to be a head knock alongside Coleman also leaving the field and this seemed to halt their momentum with Italy with all the ball and territory.
With Italy on attack, the Wallabies went down to 14 men around the 60-minute mark, with Scott Sio receiving a yellow card for a deliberate knock down near his own tryline.
He would have been relieved to see Italy unable to take advantage of his absence with their lineout unable to execute three lineouts with Izack Rodda proving the difference as went about disrupting the Italian lineout by himself.
Israel Folau had a chance to put the result beyond doubt as he collected an intercept and set sail for the line from deep in his own 22 but was run down by the chasing Italian defence and then was followed by a handling error to let the Italians off the hook.
With only minutes remaining, Will Genia sealed the result with the Wallabies fourth try. Some great work from Adam Ashley-Cooper as he found a gap gave the Wallabies great field position in the Italian 22 and Genia dived over from close range to give the Wallabies a little bit of confidence as they head to Twickenham to face England next week.
The Game Changer
The 10 minutes when Sio was in the bin. The defence stepped up and Izack Rodda’s lineout burgling in that period was crucial.
The G&GR MOTM
Samu Kerevi – Even though Koroibete scored a double, the Wallabies wouldn’t have been in a position to do so without Kerevi’s strength in contact to get over the gain line. 13 runs for 98 metres and 8 defenders beaten was a very good outing.
Score & Scorers
Tries: Koroibete 2, Tupou, Genia
Conversions: Toomua 3
59 mins – Sio – Yellow