Planet Rugby

Wallabies hold off the Italians

20th June 2009 10:41

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Adam Ashley Cooper cruising against Italy

On and off: Adam Ashley-Cooper

Australia wrapped up their two-Test series against Italy on Saturday with very little to shout about in a fragmented 34-12 win in Melbourne.

Once again the Wallabies struggled to recapture the same rhythm that did for the Barbarians only a fortnight ago, which was partly down to Italy's ability to suffocate their opposition to a point that almost snatched the spoils.

But victory was eventually confirmed by the home side and they will now move towards a fixture against France with their all-star bench freshened and ready for action. Let us hope it will be a humdinger across the Tasman.

Atmosphere there was not in Melbourne and the 22-point margin failed to reflect how the 80 minutes actually panned out, with the physical Azzurri impressing until Lachie Turner's 70th minute try opened the floodgates.

Full-back James O'Connor was slightly flat following last week's hat-trick and endured a nightmare opening to the game by dropping a simple high ball moments into the game that led to Luke McLean's opening match points.

He did atone for his error later on but it was our Player to Watch, Tatafu Polota-Nau, who picked up the first of Australia's five tries after good running work from Luke Burgess and Quade Cooper allowed wing Turner to eventually feed his front-rower wide out.

Robbie Deans had opted to rest regular playmaker Matt Giteau this week in favour of shifting Berrick Barnes in one position and that option could be key in giving them options ahead of their 2011 Rugby World Cup charge.

The kicking duties were in fact handed to a much more inexperienced team-mate though, in the shape of O'Connor to add a little bit more pressure on his young shoulders. But unlike last weekend, the Wallabies were struggling for a territorial game as Italy held the upper hand around the hour mark.

That was until Turner's opportunistic score added to the 20-12 lead and from then on Australia made sure of victory, with Adam Ashley-Cooper adding to his first-half score to seal matters.

Man of the match: It will become even tougher for Lote Tuqiri to reclaim his number fourteen jersey after Lachie Turner impressed again with an error-free performance.

The scorers:

For Australia:

Tries: Polota-Nau, Cross, Ashley-Cooper 2, Turner

Con: O'Connor 2, Barnes

Pen: O'Connor

For Italy:

Pen: McLean 4

Australia: 15 James O'Connor, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Ryan Cross, 12 Quade Cooper, 11 Peter Hynes, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 George Smith (c), 7 David Pocock, 6 Peter Kimlin, 5 Dean Mumm, 4 James Horwill, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Pekahou Cowan.

Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Nathan Sharpe, 19 Phil Waugh, 20 Josh Valentine, 21 Matt Giteau, 22 Adam Ashley-Cooper.

Italy: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Giulio Rubini, 13 Gonzalo Canale, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Alberto Sgarbi, 10 Craig Gower, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Sergio Parisse (capt), 7 Simone Favaro, 6 Jean Francois Montauriol, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Tommaso Reato, 3 Fabio Staibano, 2 Franco Sbaraglini, 1 Matias Aguero.

Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Salvatore Perugini, 18 Quintin Geldenhuys, 19 Alessandro Zanni, 20 Giulio Toniolatti, 21 Kris Burton, 22 Roberto Quartaroli.

Referee: Dave Pearson (England)

Assistant referees: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand), TBC (New Zealand)

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