Rugby: Australia finish pool stage with flourish

By Campbell Burnes

Australia's Joel Conlon.
Australia's Joel Conlon.

A cold snap plus steady rain at Pukekohe's ECOLight Stadium stymied any chance of seeing either Counties Manukau mascot Poppy the goat or an aesthetically pleasing contest when Australia's juniors took on Italy.

The ball was like a cake of soap and some of the early rugby was a tad on the ambitious side.

In Australia's case, that was entirely forgivable given they needed to pump up their points differential to hold any hope of reaching the semifinals. Italy may have smiled when they saw the heavens open, but they were never going to win this arm-wrestle, having made several changes from the targeted match against Argentina last Friday.

Some of Australia's passing lacked fluency, but at least they were mostly going for the short ball option in the conditions. But from the moment hooker Feleti Kaitu'u plunged over in the 13th minute, after TMO approval, and it was decided No 8 Ross Haylett-Perry was the go-to lineout man from which they could launch drives, Australia's win seemed inevitable.

Luke Burton impressed at No 12, his try on the stroke of halftime coming from his scything run, a flick pass inside to wing Brad Lacey and then back to Burton for the score. Lacey also gave the last pass for the bonus point, secured by lock Jack Payne in the 50th minute. After that the game lost its shape and spark.

Italy presented a solid scrum but got few meaningful phases going.

Australia 29 (Feleti Kaitu'u, Ross Haylett-Petty, Luke Burton, Jack Payne tries; Burton 3 cons, pen).
Italy 3 (Giacomo de Santis pen)
HT: 24-3.

- NZ Herald

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