Italy enjoys tryfest at Rugby World Cup
Wing partners Tommaso Benvenuti and Giulio Toniolatti scored twice each in a nine-try team performance as Italy ran rampant to beat Russia 53-17 at the Rugby World Cup in Nelson, New Zealand, on Tuesday.
The Italians, who failed to score a try in an opening 32-6 loss to Australia, talked before the match about needing to win with a bonus point to have any chance of qualifying from Pool C for the quarter-finals.
The Italians had both those issues covered early. Captain Sergio Parisse rumbled over in the sixth minute and Toniolatti's second in the 23rd minute gave Italy a four-try bonus point.
Italy moves into third place after the win, level with Australia on five points but behind on points differential. Ireland leads the pool.
Italy had other tries from Edoardo Gori, Luke McLean, replacement Alesssandro Zanni and a penalty try. Vladimir Ostroushko, Alexey Makovetskiy and replacement Alexander Yanyushkin scored tries for Russia before a crowd of 12,415 at Trafalgar Park.
Italy's nine tries eclipsed the eight it totalled at the 2007 tournament. The team's six first-half tries were more than it scored in the whole tournament in 1987, 1999 and 2003.
Parisse wasn't totally happy with the tryfest ahead of Italy's matches against the U.S. and Ireland.
"They were very tough opponents," he said of Russia. "Our main hope was for victory and to take five points.
"They played a very physical game. We must improve in our defence, where we made a couple of mistakes."
Italy coach Nick Mallett was happy to claim a bonus-point win in the team's first match in nine days.
"I thought we started the game very well," he said. "The first half, I was very happy with and then we got a little bit loose and I made a lot of changes.
"And give them credit. They played some very nice attacking rugby, held onto the ball and ran at us.
"This was a nervous game for us because we needed to get five points to make sure we could go into that Irish game with a good shot. We've spent 20 days here and only had one game against Australia, which was a tough game to start off with, and we haven't often played against sides lower than us."
Italy's 22-year-old flyhalf, Riccardo Bocchino, who converted four of the tries, said it was a "pretty positive match, especially in the first half where we achieved what we wanted early on, which was the bonus."
"The early try calmed us down, though we could have scored more than nine but for some individual errors," he added.
Italy scored its second try when Toniolatti, after a fine cut-out pass from Parisse, scored in the corner in the 14th minute. He crossed again from a solo effort through two Russian defenders in the 23rd minute and Italy led 27-0.
Russian coach Nikolay Nerush had apparently seen enough of some of his players, replacing starting scrumhalf Alexander Shakirov with Alexander Yanyushkin with 12 minutes left in the first half. But Italy scored less than a minute later, a penalty try awarded by English referee Wayne Barnes for repeated scrum infractions and Italy led 38-7 at the half.
Russia captain Vladislav Korshunov limped into the news conference following the loss, saying he had injured his right leg, a recurrence of an injury picked up during a four-match tour of England in August.
"It's an old injury," he said. "I don't really know what happened tonight, whether it's a bruise or a tear."
Korshunov said the lopsided penalty count in the first half — nine to one against his side — showed the team's nervousness.
"It was our tactic to focus on possession," Korshunov said. "We didn't want to lose the ball as many times as we did.
"We wanted to focus on the setpieces, too. But we committed a few infringements and made a lot of errors.
"In the second half, we played really well. What we showed then was our plan for the whole match."
Australian-born lock Adam Byrnes, who has a Russian-born mother, made his debut for Russia but was replaced with 15 minutes left. Byrnes plays for the Super 15 Melbourne Rebels.
It was the first of three matches at Trafalgar Park. Italy plays the United States on Sept. 27 and Australia meets Russia on Oct. 1.