Italy secured a bonus point in a 27-10 win over a resilient United States at the Rugy World Cup on Tuesday, setting up the Pool C match against Ireland to determine one quarter-final spot.
The Italians gave a patchy performance at Trafalgar Park despite dominating the time of possession, thanks to a lopsided 19-7 penalty count. Because of the Americans' tenacious scrambling defense, the Azzurri were forced to wait until the 66th minute for their fourth try — and the bonus competition point — from a penalty try.
No. 8 Sergio Parisse, flyhalf Luciano Orquera and tighthead prop Martin Castrogiovanni scored in the first half for Italy, while American fullback Chris Wyles scored a stunning first-phase try after receiving a pass following center Paul Emerick's bust from a lineout.
Italy needed a bonus point to help its calculations for the quarter-finals, which could come down to tries and points scored in the tournament if the Italians beat Ireland on Sunday.
But the U.S. defense held firm for long stretches, three times denying the Italians from scoring a try with the assistance of the video referee.
"We're happy," Parisse said. "Obviously, we'll take the five points.
"That was the important thing for us. The USA gave us a lot of hard work.
"We scored four tries, that's important. Now we're looking forward for the last match against Ireland with a lot of confidence."
U.S. coach Eddie O'Sullivan had said beforehand that his expectations were limited to wanting his players, in their last match, to test Italy.
He wasn't disappointed. Outmatched at scrum time, the U.S. midfield defense was ferocious, with Todd Clever particularly inspirational. He made crunching hits, stole turnovers and won a personal duel with Italy's similarly talismanic captain, Parisse.
The U.S. had just 36 per cent of field territory and was forced to play from deep when the ball was secured — usually from a lineout that stole five throws or half the Italian total — but still showed inventiveness and a willingness to take risks.
"We gave it all we had," Clever said. "At the end, it wasn't enough against a strong Italian side.
"I'm just super proud of the guys. We're going to be a great team in the near future."