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Dublin: 4 °C Sunday 19 January, 2020
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“Conor, it’s four o’clock in the morning.”

“I know, but it’s rugby time back home.”

Join The Score in pulling an all-nighter to see Ireland’s Pool C rivals safely off the mark in this year’s Rugby World Cup. If you’re got an observation, comment or sleep deprivation hallucination you’d like to share, e-mail Conor@thescore.ie, tweet us @thescore_iefind us on Facebook, or leave a comment below.

Hey ho, let’s go!

*clears throat* And the teams are as follows:

Australia– Beale, Ashley-Cooper, Faingaa, McCabe, Ioane, Cooper, Genia; Kepu, Moore, Alexander, Vickerman, Horwill, Elsom, Pocock, Samo.

Italy– Masi, Benvenuti, Canale, Garcia, Bergamasco, Orquera, Semenzato; Lo Cicero, Ghiraldini, Castrogiovanni, Del Fava, Van Zyl, Zanni, Barbieri, Parisse.

Australia’s super exciting back line could well come to define this year’s tournament. While we’re waiting for things to get underway in Auckland, why not enjoy a mini highlights reel of their recent Tri-Nations victory over the All Blacks.

Kurtley Beale is probably the most Australian name of all-time, with Quade Cooper running it a close second.

Just a quick word on James O’Connor: the Wallabies’ baby-faced winger/fullback starts today’s game on the bench for disciplinary reasons.

Cooper gets us underway with a lofted kick to the right side of the pitch. It’s absolutely bucketing down, which, if anything, will favour the Italian pack.

Cooper flights a lovely little grubber kick into the corner. Alain Rolland asserts his authority at the line-out and the Azurri clear their lines.

Two huge hits– a knee to the head and a(n inadvertent) kick to the face take Italy’s No12, Gonzalo Garcia out of the game.

Lots of shots of Castrogiovanni prowling around the pitch…

“New Zealand’s Most Hated Man,” Quade Cooper, is booed by the crowd as he steps up to take Australia’s first penalty of the match. Directly in front of the posts about 35 metres out, the fly-half balloons his effort wide to the right. Sarcastic cheers abound.

Not the confident start the Wallabies would have been hoping for.

A sudden turnover catches the Wallabies by surprise and leaves the Italian back-line with space on the left wing. A kick through the Australian defensive line leaves Masi in a straightforward footrace with Quade Cooper. It’s a race he loses, but boy, that was close.

The Azurri are very much on the front foot.

Italy win a penalty on the extreme left touchline. Orquera kicks for touch and the Italians secure possession from the lineout, building yet another maul and clearing the way for some attritional pick-and-go action.

Barbieri is penalised for holding on, however, and Australia are granted a reprieve.

Italy are really chasing the ball down extremely well.

Frequent infringements from both teams are preventing the game from settling into a rhythm. Italy are giving away penalties out of eagerness, whereas one senses their antipodean opponents are giving them away out of sloppiness.

Australian frustration, with both their inefffectuality at the breakdown and Alain Rolland’s officiating, costs them a penalty. Bergamasco leaves it short, however. The Wallabies have been let off the hook… again.

Cooper’s unhappy that he was tackled quite a while after playing the ball, and so is Rolland, who awards the Wallabies a penalty.

The fly-half steps up to the ball and, with his trademark, arms akimbo action, dispatches a low, spinning effort right between the posts.

Australia 3 – 0 Italy

Australia are trying to build a platform from which to bring their forwards into the game, but the constant pressure being exerted by the Italian pack is making life extremely difficult Genia and Cooper.

The moment they do get clean ball, however, a string of lightning fast passes culminates in a grubber kick from Beale that very nearly sees Adam Ashley-Cooper over in the right corner.

Some indiscipline from Kepu– he was miles offside– allowds the Azurri to clear their lines.

Taking the dictum “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” to heart, Facebook fan Colm Stanley says:

“C’mon Italy”

Machiavelli would be proud. Mind you, he was an Italian.

Australia have taken the ball through 9 phases and are now camped under the Italian posts, just five metres short of the line. Rolland is teetering on the brink of awarding a penalty to the Wallabies… and does.

He also issues a warning to Parisse, claiming that the next Italian infringement in defence will lead to a dismissal.

Cooper sends the kick safely over. To be fair, The Score’s own Paul Fennessy could have made that one.

Australia 6 – 0 Italy

The Italian scrum wins a penalty through Castrogiovanni, who just demolishes the Wallabies’ loose head, Kepu.

Australia nick the ball– courtesy of Pockock, of course– and break at speed through Cooper, who’s shadowed every step of the way by Beale. The move breaks down when the Wallabies are penalised for crossing, of all things.

There’s more than a hint of injustice about the call and Italy make the most of it, securing possession in the Australian half and winning themselves another penalty, again the result of some aggressive carrying into contact.

This time, Bergamasco makes no mistake.

Australia 6 – 3 Italy

We’re nearly forty minutes in, and the locals are still remembering to cheer every time Cooper is wrestled to the ground.

Quade Cooper is swamped by the onrushing Italian pack as he collects a kick just outside the Australia 22. His teammates go off their feet to protect the ball and– peep!– Rolland awards the Italians with a penalty right in front of the posts.

Bergamasco makes it 6-all at half-time.

Australia 6 – 6 Italy

HALF-TIME: As Craig Doyle busies himself deriding an absolutely heroic Italian performance as “difficult to watch at times,” Lawrence Dallaglio and Girvan Dempsey weigh in on the influence of Alain Rolland.

Is the Irishman killing the game? Tough to say. He’s been quick to penalise both teams at the breakdown, but the chaotic enthusiasm of the Italian effort, in tandem with the sloppiness of Australia’s decision-making, has demanded intervention.

I’m still reeling from seeing Hugh Laurie’s L’Oréal ad for the first time…

But Orquera’s got us back underway. Australia kick the ball to touch, leaving Italy with a lineout on the halfway line.

Australia are trying to throw the ball about a bit now, but Italian pressure prompts another handling error, this time from Faingaa. Italy engage in some high-fiving.

Castrogiovanni takes an Australian defensive kick to the face and doesn’t even break his stride! What a man!

Australia are beginning to enter contact with more pace and aggressiveness. I’m guessing Robbie Deans didn’t hold back during the break.

Faingaa’s made way for Australian bad boy James O’Connor.

TRY for Australia! Fifty minutes into the match and Australia’s first threatening line-break, courtesy of Digby Ioane, unlocks the Italian defence. Some stylish interplay between the centre, Beale and Samo, leaves the Wallabies with the perfect platform from which to launch a series of pick-and-gos. Eventually, Alexander bundles over for the score.

O’Connor misses the conversion from just inside the right touchline.

Australia 11 – 6 Italy

Another try! This one was too easy. Ashley-Cooper breezes through the Italian line after some fine work from Cooper and O’Connor.

The youngster makes no mistake with the conversion.

Australia 18 – 6 Italy

… and another TRY! This time O’Connor, whose made an instant impact since he joined the game, dodges two Italian tackles en route to crossing the try line.

The conversion is over.

Australia 25 – 6 Italy

The magnitude of Italy’s first-half effort is beginning to tell in dramatic fashion. Without that same elevated level of commitment at the breakdown, the Azurri just don’t have the ability to deprive Australia’s halfbacks of quick ball.

Substitutions!

Del Fava off, Botolami on; Derbyshire on, Barbieri off; Garcia off, McLean on.

Pocock off, McCalman on; Genia off, Burgess on; Moore off, Polota-Nau on.

James Slipper is on for the Aussie try-scorer, Ben Alexander.

What a TRY! Ioane comes onto the ball at pace after a wonderful pop-up from the back of the scrum finds its way into Burgess’s hands. A fantastic side-step frees the centre from power over under the posts. That was incredible.

… and O’Connor pops the conversion over.

Australia 32 – 6 Italy

Rocky is off for Higginbotham.

Italy are penalised for holding on and the Wallabies kick to the right corner. Nau’s delivery is intercepted by Bortolami, who’s added a degree of dynamism to a tired looking Azurri pack, and the Europeans clear their lines.

Slipper shows his pace by retrieving a loose ball on the edge of his own 22. His reward: being tackled by three Italians and having his cavernous arse-crack displayed to an entire wing of the stadium.

Unfortunately, yes, it was the one on which the television cameras are mounted.

Castrogiovanni can take no more and is withdrawn from the fray.

A piece of elegant running from Parisse leaves Italy with a penalty well inside the Australian half. They decide to go in search of the try and kick to the corner. After collecting the lineout and piecing together a couple of impressive phases, they win themselves a scrum.

After dominating the set-piece and powering over the line, Parisse briefly loses control of the ball at the tail of the scrum, allowing Cooper to pounce. Huge frustration from the Italian who, in no time at all, find themselves back in their own half.

According to the ITV commentators, Alain Rolland has no sense of humour. He’s just penalised Beale for backchat.

IT’S ALL OVER! It looked like we had a game on our hands at half-time, but Italian fatigue and an increase in their opponent’s dynamism paved the way for four Australian tries in the second half. The lesson for Ireland: allowing the Wallabies quick ball will get you killed quickly and painlessly.

My Man of the Match: Digby Ioane.

Australia 32 – 6 Italy

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