NELSON, New Zealand, (Reuters): Pack power helped Italy overcome a determined effort by the United States to claim a 27-10 bonus point victory at the rugby World Cup on Tuesday, putting them within reach of their first appearance in the quarter-finals.
The victory moved Italy onto 10 points in Pool C, level with Australia and three behind leaders Ireland, who they meet in a pivotal clash in Dunedin on Sunday.
Captain Sergio Parisse, flyhalf Luciano Orquera and prop Martin Castrogiovanni scored tries as the Italian pack proved far too strong for their weary opponents, who conceded a penalty try in the last 14 minutes.
“We are happy because we took the five points, that was the important thing for us,” Parisse said in a pitchside interview.
“The United States gave us a lot of hard work but now we are looking forward to the match against Ireland with a lot of confidence.”
The Italians were quick out of the blocks and a big score looked likely after a clever pop pass from lock Cornelius van Zyl set Parisse clear to score under the posts after just three minutes.
However, the Americans were not downhearted by their sloppy start and drew level 10 minutes later when powerful centre Paul Emerick cut through some slack Italian defending before offloading for fullback Chris Wyles to cross for an easy try.
Wyles converted his try and then he and Italian winger Mirco Bergamasco traded penalties as the fired-up Americans, who were hammered 67-5 by Australia on Friday, threatened to take an unlikely lead.
However, the Italian scrum was too strong for their opponents and they forced the determined American side to defend for long periods.The pressure told when Italy grabbed their second try through Orquera after 30 minutes. As the U.S. defence sprinted out, the flyhalf stole in behind to cross for a score. Italian muscle was beginning to tell and after being denied by the television match official minutes earlier, tighthead prop Castrogiovanni bulldozed over from close range to stretch the lead to 20-10 just before halftime.
Play raged from end to end at the start of the second half before American flanker Louis Stanfill was shown a yellow card after numerous scrum infringements close to their line. Parisse rejected the chance to kick at goal and continually opted for the scrum in a tedious spell and despite their obvious advantage the Italians fluffed several chances to score.
However, Italy claimed the crucial bonus point for their fourth try as their forwards piled on the pressure and referee George Clancy awarded a penalty try for American infringements at the scrum. “They’re a tough team, they know what to do under pressure,” said U.S. captain Todd Clever. “I’m just super proud of the guys … we’re going to be a great team in the future.”