Marika Koroibete scored two of Australia’s four tries in their 26-7 win over Italy in Padua on Saturday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
Initially left out of the match 23, Koroibete came into the starting lineup after 18-year-old wing Jordan Petaia missed out on a Test debut due to a hamstring injury. And he provided a spark to an otherwise impotent Australian backline.
The result is a boost for the underfire Wallabies and coach Michael Cheika, but their performance will do little to allay fears that they are on a downward spiral.
Bar their dominance at the lineout, the Wallabies struggled to gain a clear advantage over their hosts in other areas of the game. In fact, it might have been a different story and result if Italy had executed their opportunities better.
As it was, Australia were let off the hook on several occasions as the scores remained deadlocked in the opening 30 minutes. With his side becoming frustrated by their inability to break down the Italy defence, outside centre Samu Kerevi slid through a gap and three passes later Koroibete dotted down under the posts.
Italy had done the basics well up to that point, but following Matt Toomua’s successful conversion attempt, Azzurri flyhalf Tommy Allan sent the restart straight over the deadball line and the Wallabies profited with a scrum on the halfway line.
The visitors were soon on the attack inside the 22. This time Adam Ashley-Cooper’s subtle change of angle drew two tacklers and Koroibete ran a perfect line to receive the offload and grab his second try.
On the stroke of half-time, Italy turned down the chance to go for the three points but it didn’t pay off as they conceded possession.
Australia tested Italy’s defence immediately after the restart and it wasn’t long before prop Taniela Tupou’s storming run brought another try, although Italy had every right to be aggrieved that the try was awarded after replays showed that David Pocock had run an obstructive line.
With the crowd becoming more and more vocal, Italy responded through Mattia Bellini, who scooped up a loose pass and cantered away for their only score of the game, despite having a one-man advantage after Scott Sio was sent off for a deliberate knock-down.
The introduction of the Wallabies reserves livened up the match a little and scrumhalf Will Genia ensured they finished on a high when he darted over for their fourth try that sealed just their fourth win of the year.
Italy – Try: Mattia Bellini. Conversion: Tommy Allan.
Wallabies – Tries: Marika Koroibete (2), Taniela Tupou, Will Genia. Conversions: Matt Toomua (3).
Italy – 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Tommaso Benvenuti, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Tommaso Castello, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Abraham Jurgens Steyn, 7 Jake Polledri, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Dean Budd, 4 Alessandro Zanni, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini (c), 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Subs: 16 Luca Bigi, 17 Cherif Traore’, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Marco Fuser, 20 Johan Meyer, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Luca Morisi.
Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Bernard Foley, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 Scott Sio
Subs: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Jermaine Ainsley, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Will Genia, 22 Kurtley Beale, 23 Dane Haylett-Petty.
Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images