Italy claim historic first victory over Australia

Italy picked up a historic win as a strong performance saw them beat Australia for the first time on Saturday, much to the delight of a cheering home crowd.

Ange Capuozzo scored two tries and Pierre Bruno also dived as Italy recorded a memorable 28-27 victory in Florence.

Debutant Ben Donaldson could have denied the hosts a conversion after time ran out, following a last-minute try from Cadeyrn Neville. But he sent his kick away from the post to spark wild party scenes among the Azzurri.

Donaldson looked stunned as he was consoled by his teammates, as the Italian players rushed to hug each other.

Most of the damage was done in the first half when Italy took full advantage of Jake Gordon’s yellow card to score two tries and build a 14-point lead.

Australia’s other tries came by Tom Wright, Fraser McReight and Tom Robertson.

Italy had lost their previous 18 matches against Australia.

It was a revamped Wallabies side after last week’s narrow defeat in France, with coach Dave Rennie making 11 changes.

Italy were forced into a late substitution as Paolo Garbisi suffered a toe injury and was replaced by Tommaso Allan. And it was Allan who made the scoreboard tick with an early penalty just past the posts following a Wallabies infraction.

Australia came close to scoring the first try after several huge runs towards the Italian line, but had to settle for a penalty that Noah Lolesio inserted between the posts to level the scores.

Allan missed another penalty but Italy played hard and incredibly managed to open up a significant lead over Australia.

The Azzurri capitalized on the power play after Wallabies scrum-half Gordon was shown a yellow card in the 15th minute for hitting Allan with a late shoulder, sending him flying over the touchline.

Italy immediately increased the pressure and scored the first try four minutes later as, after the Azzurri were held up near the line, Luca Morisi kicked the ball to Bruno, who scored in the right corner. Allan skillfully added the extras.

Italy was flying and scored another try just as Gordon’s time in the sinbin was coming to an end. Capuozzo faked Bruno before bursting down the right flank and diving into the corner.

Allan converted again to put Italy 17-3.

Back tied in numbers, the Wallabies responded with a try as Wright scored acrobatically in the corner after a superb throw from Lolesio.

However, despite two conversion attempts due to an early encroachment from Italy, Lolesio was unable to add the extras.

Australia cut the deficit further with another try at the start of the second half when, with the Wallabies camped on the Italian line, McReight finally managed a crashing left of the posts.

This time Lolesio converted to close the gap to two points.

Allan took a penalty but made no mistake minutes later after Allan Alaalatoa was penalized for a ruck infraction.

Another strong Italian scrum earned the hosts another penalty but Allan missed again from around 40 yards out.

But that was quickly forgotten as Italy scored their third try moments later. Montanna Ioane carried the ball within 22 yards and it was quickly offloaded to the right, where Capuozzo went through a hole and dived for his second of the game.

Allan missed again and Italy offered Australia a way back into the game in the 67th minute as they made a mess of a penalty and Ned Hanigan slid the ball past Robertson to dive through- above.

Lolesio converted to close the gap to just three points.

Edoardo Padovani missed a penalty moments after replacing Allan but made no mistakes minutes later.

It then looked like the Azzurri were going to be denied victory when Neville grabbed Tate McDermott’s pass and crossed the line, but it wasn’t to be.


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This story was originally published November 12, 2022 7:12 a.m.

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