Italy scores early, often to beat Russia at RWC
Updated: September 20, 2011, 05:52
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NELSON, New Zealand(AP) Wing partners Tommaso Benvenuti and Giulio Toniolatti scored twice each in a nine-try team performance as Italy ran rampant to beat Russia 53-17 on Tuesday at the Rugby World Cup.
The Italians, who failed to score a try in an opening 32-6 loss to Australia, talked before the match about needing to win with a bonus point to have any chance of qualifying from Pool C for the quarterfinals.
The Italians had both those issues covered early. Captain Sergio Parisse rumbled over in the sixth minute and Toniolatti's second in the 23rd minute gave Italy a four-try bonus point.
Italy moves into third place after the win, level with Australia on five points but behind on points differential. Ireland leads the pool.
Italy had other tries from Edoardo Gori, Luke McLean, replacement Alesssandro Zanni and a penalty try. Vladimir Ostroushko, Alexey Makovetskiy and replacement Alexander Yanyushkin scored tries for Russia before a crowd of 12,415 at Trafalgar Park.
Parisse wasn't totally happy with the tryfest ahead of Italy's matches against the U.S. and Ireland.
"They were very tough opponents,'' he said of Russia. "Our main hope was for victory and to take five points. They played a very physical game. We must improve in our defense, where we made a couple of mistakes.''
Italy coach Nick Mallett was happy to claim a bonus-point win in the team's first match in nine days.
"I thought we started the game very well. The first half, I was very happy with, and then we got a little bit loose and I made a lot of changes,'' he said. "And give them credit, they played some very nice attacking rugby; held onto the ball and ran at us.
"This was a nervous game for us because we needed to get five points to make sure we could go into that Irish game with a good shot. We've spent 20 days here and only had one game against Australia, which was a tough game to start off with, and we haven't often played against sides lower than us.''
After 22-year-old flyhalf Riccardo Bocchino - making his first Rugby World Cup start in his ninth test - missed an early penalty, Parisse scored Italy's first try after another Russian penalty, this time for the tackler not releasing.
From a lineout, the big No. 8 received the second of two wide passes to run 10 meters and score untouched. Bocchino easily converted.
Italy scored its second try when Toniolatti, after a fine cut-out pass from Parisse, scored in the corner in the 14th minute. From a wide angle, Bocchino missed the conversion.
Toniolatti picked up his second try from a solo effort through two Russian defenders in the 23rd minute. This time, Bocchino slotted it home from in front to give Italy a 24-0 lead.
Russian coach Nikolay Nerush had apparently seen enough of some of his players, replacing starting scrumhalf Alexander Shakirov with Alexander Yanyushkin with 12 minutes left in the first half. But Italy scored less than a minute later, a penalty try awarded by English referee Wayne Barnes for repeated scrum infractions and Italy led 38-7 at the half.
Russian lock Alexander Voytov had mixed feelings about the match.
"It was not that good for us, but we scored some tries and they were the first tries for a Russia team at a World Cup,'' he said. "Hopefully, we will have more tries in our next games. Each game is a new experience for us.''
Australian-born lock Adam Byrnes, who has a Russian-born mother, made his debut for Russia but was replaced with 15 minutes left. Byrnes plays for the Super 15 Melbourne Rebels.
It was the first of three matches at Trafalgar Park. Italy plays the United States on Sept. 27 and Australia meets Russia on Oct. 1.
Italy 53 (Giulio Toniolatti 2, Tommaso Benvenuti 2, Sergio Parisse, Edoardo Gori, Luke McLean, Alessandro Zanni, penalty tries; Riccardo Bocchino 4 conversions), Russia 17 (Alexander Tanyushkin, Vladimir Ostroushko, Alexey Makovetskiy tries; Konstantin Rachkov conversion). HT: 38-7.