Mon, Nov 13, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Australia relieved to beat Azzurri

AFP , ROME

Australia's Matt Giteau, center, is tackled by Italy's Paul Griffen, left, and Pablo Canavosio during their Test match at Rome's Flaminio stadium on Saturday.

PHOTO: AP

Australia coach John Connolly was mightily relieved to see his side avoid a major upset against a spirited Italy in the second of their four-game European tour.

A dominant pack helped Italy open up an early nine-point lead, but three unanswered Australian tries eventually saw the visitors clinch a hard-fought 25-18 victory.

All of Italy's points came from Ramiro Pez's boot which landed six penalties.

Connolly was far from surprised to see the underdogs closing the gap on rugby's hierarchy.

"There are no easy games in top-level rugby nowadays," said the Aussie coach whose team were held to a 29-all draw by Wales last week.

"These teams are improving all the time. Italy's backline has a long way to go, but their forwards are very tough. More of their squad are starting to play in France and England and that is helping them immensely in terms of experience," he said.

"Italian rugby is on the up, and if you don't treat them with the respect they deserve, they'll beat you," he added.

Connolly refused to blame squad rotation for his team's disjointed performance.

"We kicked poorly and gave Italy too many opportunities, but experimentation is no excuse," he said.

"The shape of our game was the problem. We gifted Italy too many chances and Pez punished us," Connolly said.

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