Australia ran in five tries as they comfortably beat Italy 34-12 in Melbourne.
While the hosts dominated the opening stanza, the Wallabies were less than impressive in the second half, and two late tries from Lachie Turner and Adam Ashley-Cooper meant the scoreboard flattered them in the end.
Australia looked as though they would emulate last week’s result in Canberra as they ran in three first-half tries to go in at half time with a comfortable 20-6 lead. But Italy were better in the second half as they prevented Robbie Deans’s men from scoring for thirty minutes.
The Wallabies missed the surgical accuracy of Matt Giteau’s boot, and while their scrum held up well, their lineout work will be a concern for Deans ahead of the game against France next week.
The Italians made a promising start to the game and went in front early through a Luke McLean penalty. But Australia responded well and after a sniping run from scrumhalf Luke Burges, Berrick Barnes threw a long pass out to Lachie Turner on the wing who popped it on the inside to Tatafu Polota-Nau to finish in the corner and give the hosts the lead with 10 minutes gone.
After missing the earlier conversion attempt, teenager James O’Connor extended his side’s lead with a penalty in the 23rd minute.
The Wallabies seemed intent on testing Italy’s back three under the high ball, and it soon paid off as yet another high bomb led to a turnover, and when the ball eventually became available it came to O’Connor who popped the ball inside to Ryan Cross for an easy score which the 18-year-old converted.
McLean kept his side in touching distance with a second penalty on the half hour mark.
With time running out in the half the hosts looked to launch one last attack from a lineout around the half way mark. The ball was spread out to replacement Adam Ashley-Cooper in centre field, who put on the jet shoes to breeze past two defenders before sending it wide to Turner out on the wing. The Waratahs utility turned the ball back on the inside and it fell for Ashley-Cooper to finish off the move he started.
As was the case in Canberra a week ago, the visitors started the second half the better of the two sides and had the bulk of the possession early on. However, they failed to every really threaten the Australian try line and a third penalty was all they had to show for their endeavour.
McLean got his fourth of the game to narrow the gap to just eight points with 18 minutes left in the match.
Australia finally got on the board in the second half with just 10 minutes left through a Turner try, before Ashley-Cooper bagged his second of the game to round off proceedings.
There were some impressive individual performances from the likes of Ashley-Cooper, Cross and skipper on the night George Smith, but Australia will need to be more consistent if they are to see of the French in Sydney in a week’s time.
By Andrew Worling