Italy claimed a 27-10 bonus-point win against the USA in Nelson to keep their quarter-final hopes alive.
To reach the play-offs, Nick Mallett’s men have to beat Ireland in Dunedin on Sunday, and prevent their opponents from getting a bonus point. The Irish currently have 13 log points followed by Australia and Italy with 10 each (the Wallabies will almost certainly get another five against Russia).
Italy made the perfect start to their penultimate pool fixture when captain Sergio Parisse dived in under the posts in the third minute. They should have scored again soon after when fullback Luke McLean sent a grubber down the touchline, but right wing Tommaso Benvenuti knocked on in the dead-ball area.
The USA levelled the scores at the end of the first quarter when their backs got quick ball from the tail-end of a lineout. Outside centre Paul Emerick broke through two poor tackles and sent fullback Chris Wyles away for the try.
Italy were dominating up front, thanks to Man of the Match Martin Castrogiovanni, and a collapsed scrum allowed Mirco Bergamasco to kick a penalty, although that was soon cancelled out by one from Wyles.
With a bonus point for four tries non-negotiable, Italy put a kickable penalty into touch, won the lineout and a few phases later flyhalf Luciano Orquera sliced through the defence to score. Castrogiovanni then crashed over in the final play of the half to make it 20-10.
The Italian pack continued to dominate after the break and as the game entered the final quarter the USA conceded a string of penalties at scrum time, 5m out from their tryline. Eventually, the referee had enough and USA flank Louis Stanfill was sent to the sin bin.
The American scrum disintegrated again just before Stanfill’s return and the penalty try gave Italy the crucial bonus point.
By Simon Borchardt