Australia 32 Italy 6: Australia made a stuttering start but hit their stride with four second-half tries to overcome Italy in their opening World Cup match at North Harbour Stadium yesterday.
The Tri-Nations champions were held at 6-6 after a dour first half but scores from Ben Alexander, Adam Ashley-Cooper, James O'Connor and Digby Ioane saw them secure a bonus-point win in Pool C, which also includes Ireland.
Italy's huge pack had severely tested the Wallabies in wet conditions in the first half, when the only scores came from two penalties apiece for Australia's Quade Cooper and Italian Mirco Bergamasco, but a three-try blitz in 10 minutes soon after half-time ended any hopes of an upset.
“We were very pleased with the effort, we had to work very hard in the first half but we got the benefit of that in the second half,” said Australia coach Robbie Deans.
“We stuck a foot in the door and got through. We got a result which is what we came for.”
Deans also praised a Wallaby scrum that has so often been their Achilles heel, but which coped reasonably well with the vaunted Azzurri pack.
He continued: “We are pleased with the scrum, we have worked hard there. We are happy with the progress we are making and hopefully we can continue to do so.
“It's good for the group. Getting the result was key. We have a lot of respect for the Italians, they defend well and will cause sides problems.”
Australia have a habit of following big wins with poor displays, and they beat the All Blacks just two weeks ago to win a first Tri-Nations title since 2001.
But any complacency disappeared in the opening 10 minutes when, under a shower of rain, Cooper had to race into his own dead-ball area to prevent Andrea Massi grounding a Luciano Orquera kick.
Italy's hopes of a first win over Australia rested on bullying the Wallabies' forwards and depriving their backline of ball.
The experienced Italian pack did their part but the 1991 and 1999 world champions conspired with a string of poor decisions.
“We didn't help ourselves in the first half, we were a bit impatient and tried to force it,” Deans added.
“We overplayed our hand in the way that we attacked. We got the balance of our attack right in the second half.”
Australia captain James Horwill says his side can perform much better, saying: “In the first half we knew they would come out and try and scrap and kick with the wind, and we made mistakes and gave them too much ball. We didn't take our opportunities when they came.
“In the second half we turned pressure into points and when we get the ball going forward, and Will Genia and Quade Cooper can get good ball, it's deadly when that happens.
“It was good to see the backs get some space and score some tries. We are happy with the result but we can certainly improve.”