Italy crushed Canada with a 48-7 victory in Fukuoka as they maintained their unbeaten Rugby World Cup start ahead of a potentially pivotal clash with South Africa.
The Azzurri had only beaten Canada by five-point margins in each of their previous two World Cup encounters, but this victory was far more emphatic as second-rowers Braam Steyn and Dean Budd touched down in the first half.
Further tries from Sebastian Negri, Mattia Bellini, Federico Zani and Matteo Minozzi – along with a penalty try – gave Italy the bonus-point success as Conor O’Shea’s side followed up their 47-22 win over Namibia with another impressive display.
Andrew Coe’s score gave Canada a consolation, but Italy dominated ahead of clashes against heavyweights South Africa and New Zealand in their final two Pool A games, with only two teams qualifying for the last eight.
Steyn was the first to go over in the seventh minute when he rode three tackles in a powerful run, with Budd then taking advantage of some weak Canadian defending too, Tommaso Allan adding the extras to both to leave Italy firmly in charge.
Canada were unable to get on the board in the opening 40 minutes – Matt Heaton knocking on as he prepared to walk in under the posts unopposed – as Italy claimed a 17-0 advantage at the interval.
That lead was increased when Negri skipped away down the left and Italy had the bonus point secured before the hour mark when they were awarded a penalty try after Heaton was adjudged to have tackled a maul, earning a yellow card for his efforts.
Bellini was the next to cross and though Coe showcased some terrific footwork to dot down and ensure Canada got on the board, Zani and Minozzi scored Italy’s sixth and seventh tries to round off a comfortable win.
Full-time | Impressive display from @Federugby.
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) September 26, 2019
Italians too powerful for out-of-sorts Canada
Canada came close to World Cup upsets against Italy in 2003 and 2015 but they looked like a team that had lost their last five games in a row. Steyn set the tone with a strong drive in the opening moments and fellow back-rowers Negri and man-of-the-match Jake Polledri were fantastic.
Fukuoka turf not pitch-perfect
Neither Canada nor Italy were helped by the horrendous pitch, which dug up far too easily and left sizeable mounds. Such issues are simply not expected at this level of the game.
Key Opta Facts
– Italy have won three consecutive games in the Rugby World Cup for the first time and their latest by 41 points, their biggest ever winning margin.
– Jake Polledri beat 14 defenders in the match, the most by an Italy player in a Rugby World Cup match and the most by a forward of any nation in a Rugby World Cup game.
– Four different Italian forwards crossed for a try in this match, the most for the Azzurri since five forwards scored against Netherlands in 1998.
– Italy have scored 40+ points in back-to-back Rugby World Cup games, having done so just once in 28 previous games (53-17 v Russia in 2011).
Italy’s quarter-final hopes likely hinge on their clash with South Africa next Friday. It does not get any easier for Canada, who meet New Zealand in Oita two days earlier.
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