BRISBANE, Australia (AP) Australia rallied for two late tries in an unconvincing and error-filled 40-27 rugby test win Saturday over Italy.
It extended Australia’s perfect record against Italy to 17 consecutive victories. Their last match in Brisbane in 1994 was a close win for the home side – 23-20 at Ballymore.
Australia, leading 21-13 at halftime, looked to be coasting to victory when Sefa Naivalu scored his second try early in the second half for a 15-point lead.
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But two Italy tries, both coming directly from Wallaby mistakes, reduced the margin to just one point, and a yellow card to replacement prop Toby Smith put the visitors in the hunt for their first win against Australia.
First, Dane Haylett-Petty spilled a high cross-field kick in the 64th minute while standing just forward of the try line, coughing the ball up to Edoardo Padovani for an easy Italy try.
Minutes later, a Rory Arnold pass was intercepted by Tommaso Benvenuti, who went on to score and make it 28-27.
But the pressure on the Wallabies was relieved when Abraham Steyn was yellow-carded for a deliberate knockdown, erasing Italy’s one-man advantage, and Bernard Foley and Reece Hodge then crossed for late tries to clinch the win.
Man-of-the-match Israel Folau had his third consecutive two-try performance for Australia.
”To Italy’s credit they fought their way back into the game,” Australia captain Stephen Moore said. ”It probably shows where we are at, down on a little bit of confidence in some parts of our game.
”We want to be able to back ourselves, but you don’t want to make those errors, particularly in our own half. We’ll go away and look at that and work on it for the next couple of months.”
The Wallabies don’t play again until the opening match of the Rugby Championship/Bledisloe Cup against New Zealand in Sydney on Aug. 19.
The Australians had a surprising 24-19 loss to Scotland last weekend in Sydney after opening their international season on June 10 with a 37-14 win over Fiji in Melbourne.