Italy made an excellent start to their Rugby World Cup campaign when they sealed a 52-8 bonus-point victory against Namibia in Saint-Etienne on Saturday.
Although it was a comfortable win in the end, the Azzurri were made to work hard for the result, especially in the opening half when their opponents put in a competitive performance.
In the end, Italy’s class shone through and they eventually outscored Namibia by seven tries to one with Lorenzo Cannone, Paolo Garbisi, Dino Lamb, Ange Capuozzo, Hame Faiva, Manuel Zuliani and Paolo Odogwu crossing the whitewash for the Azzurri, while Tommaso Allan finished with a 17-point haul courtesy of seven conversions and a penalty.
For the Welwitschias, Gerswin Mouton scored a try and Tiaan Swanepoel added a penalty.
Namibia made the brighter start and opened the scoring as early as the fourth minute when Swanepoel succeeded with a penalty but five minutes later the Azzurri drew level courtesy of a Allan three-pointer off the kicking tee.
Shortly afterwards, Namibia were reduced to 14 men when Torsten van Jaarsveld was yellow carded for collapsing a maul illegally close to his try-line.
Italy put the resulting penalty into touch deep inside Namibia territory and got a rolling maul going from the lineout before Cannone crashed over for the opening try.
With Van Jaarsveld in the sin bin, Namibia struggled with their throw-ins at the lineouts and in the 15th minute Italy pounced on a wayward throw from Richard Hardwick at the set-piece.
The ball came out to Garbisi, who beat a couple of defenders with ease inside Namibia’s 22 before dotting down under the posts.
Despite their numerical advantage, the Welwitschias did not panic and in the 21st minute they were rewarded when Mouton gathered a long pass from Swanepoel before dotting down in the right-hand corner.
The rest of the half was a scrappy affair as Namibia did well to keep the Azzurri at bay and the Welwitschias had a chance to narrow the gap on the stroke of half-time when Swanepoel lined up a monster shot at goal from 60 metres out.
His effort had the distance but not the direction and the teams changed sides at the break with the Azzurri holding a 17-8 lead.
Italy were fastest out of the blocks in the second period and extended their lead in the 46th minute when Lamb crashed over from close quarters for their third try.
10 minutes later, Capuozzo launched a stunning counter-attack from deep inside his half and traded passes with Monty Ioane before diving over in the left-hand corner for a well-taken try.
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With the bonus-point in the bag, the Azzurri upped the ante on attack and were rewarded with further tries from Faiva and Zuliani during the latter stages of the match before Odogwu came off the bench to show a superb turn of pace as he added the final nail in Namibia’s coffin after the full-time hooter had sounded.
Italy: 15 Tommaso Allan, 14 Ange Capuozzo, 13 Juan Ignacio Brex, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Stephen Varney, 8 Lorenzo Cannone, 7 Michele Lamaro (c), 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Dino Lamb, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Giacomo Nicotera, 1 Danilo Fischetti
Replacements: 16 Epalahame Faiva, 17 Ivan Nemer, 18 Marco Riccioni, 19 David Sisi, 20 Manuel Zuliani, 21 Martin Page-Relo, 22 Paolo Odogwu, 23 Pierre Bruno
Namibia: 15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Gerswin Mouton, 13 Johan Deysel (c), 12 Danco Burger, 11 JC Greyling, 10 Tiaan Swanepoel, 9 Damian Stevens, 8 Richard Hardwick, 7 Johan Retief, 6 Wian Conradie, 5 Tjiuee Uanivi, 4 Adriaan Ludick, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Desiderius Sethie
Replacements: 16 Louis van der Westhuizen, 17 Jason Benade, 18 Casper Viviers, 19 Tiaan De Klerk, 20 Prince Gaoseb, 21 Jacques Theron, 22 Andre van der Bergh, 23 Le Roux Malan
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand), Chris Busby (Ireland)
TMO: Joy Neville (Ireland)