Wallabies weather early scare to beat Italy 26-7
PADUA, Italy (AP) — The Wallabies got the job half done.
They beat Italy 26-7 on Saturday in Padua but had to survive an early scare and were far from convincing, still.
Italy, chasing its first win over Australia, had two early tries ruled out before Australia broke away with two tries from late addition Marika Koroibete and one from Taniela Tupou.
Mattia Bellini scored a converted try at 21-0 down, and Australia scrumhalf Will Genia added barely deserved gloss to the scoreline with a try near fulltime.
But because it was the Wallabies' fourth win in 12 tests this year, they were happy.
"I feel great. We won, we grinded. In the change rooms people were smiling," Australia captain Michael Hooper said. "It was a win and we have not had a huge amount this year."
Italy started stronger, though, and thought it took a shock lead at Stadio Euganeo when No. 8 Abraham Steyn — deputizing for the injured Sergio Parisse — scored in the right corner. But his foot went out just before he dived over the line.
There was more controversy at Italy's second disallowed try, in the 14th minute. Jake Gordon's pass from the lineout was intercepted by Tito Tebaldi but the referee harshly deemed the Italian scrumhalf to be offside.
Italy coach Conor O'Shea was left fuming at his players and the referee.
"Today's match was a step forwards for the squad in a lot of ways, especially mentally, but I'm angry because in the first half we had three or four fundamental chances," he said. "Tebaldi's was undoubtedly a try and that would have changed the equilibrium of the match because Australia had a lot of pressure on them then.
"We have to certainly focus our work on our mistakes, but we're on the right path."
The Azzurri were also defending well, and a great tackle from Bellini prevented an almost certain try from Israel Folau as he was about to run clean through to the line.
The match changed on the half hour after a first mistake by Italy allowed Samu Kerevi to create the break. Adam Ashley-Cooper and David Pocock got the ball to left wing Koroibete, who ran unchallenged to the posts. Koroibete was a late addition after Jordan Petaia, set to make his debut, was ruled out injured.
Koroibete got his second try five minutes later thanks to a great pass from Ashley-Cooper, who offloaded as he was being tackled by Bellini and Michele Campagnaro.
Prop Taniela Tupou raced over the line for Australia's third try in 14 minutes, shortly after the break, and it appeared as if the Wallabies were going to romp in.
But Italy, which has so often collapsed in the second half of matches, swiftly reduced the deficit when Bellini raced down the left flank from his own half to score. Tommaso Allan converted.
Italy was handed an opportunity to get back into the match when Australia prop Scott Sio was yellow-carded just before the hour for a poor tackle on Jayden Hayward near the tryline, but the Azzurri couldn't make the man advantage count despite sustained pressure.
Italy hosts world champion New Zealand in Rome next week.