Italian captain Sergio Parisse became only the third man to play in five Rugby World Cups as the Six Nations team recovered from a slow start to beat minnows Namibia 47-22 on Sunday.
In blustery wind and torrential rain at times, the Six Nations outfit ultimately had too much firepower, racking up a seven-try, bonus-point win against a spirited Namibia, the World Cup’s lowest-ranked team at 23.
Namibia’s defence coach had promised to treat fans to an impromptu haka if his minnows pulled off a shock and it was the unfancied Welwitschias who started the brightest in the gusty Hanazono Stadium.
The underdogs were on the scoresheet with only five minutes on the clock, seizing on an overthrown line-out to produce a flowing move down the right flank finished off acrobatically by scrum-half Damian Stevens.
Italy hit back within minutes, a Parisse-inspired push-over in the scrum resulting in a penalty try as Namibia collapsed on their lines. The Italians squandered several chances in a nervy and error-strewn first half but eventually took the lead in the 26th minute as they unpicked the Namibian defence for flyhalf Tommaso Allan to touch down under the posts.
The champagne moment of the match came on the stroke of half-time as Federico Ruzza’s no-look pass let in Tito Tebaldi for a try, well converted to give the favourites a 21-7 lead at the break.
With the match being played on the fringes of a typhoon, rain hammered down in the early part of the second half and Italy extended their advantage almost immediately through an Edoardo Padovani try after a clever kick behind Namibian lines.
Italy never looked in danger of losing the match, scoring three further tries via Carlo Canna, Jake Polledri and Matteo Minozzi, but the spirited Namibians refused to lie down and a touch-down from winger JC Greyling was greeted with roars from the capacity crowd.
A mazy Chad Plato try under the posts gave the Namibians a final consolation score just before time.
Often Six Nations whipping boys, Italy are targeting their October 4 clash against South Africa as a possible route to reaching the knock-out stages for the first time but this inconsistent performance will not leave the Springboks unduly worried.
The 36-year-old Parisse’s record-equalling fifth World Cup put him alongside fellow countryman Mauro Bergamasco and Samoan legend Brian Lima, and his 141st cap also drew him level with Irish star Brian O’Driscoll in second place on the all-time list.
Tries: Penalty try, Allan, Tebaldi, Padovani, Canna, Polledri, Minozzi
Cons: Allan 3, Canna 2
Tries: Stevens, Greyling, Plato
Cons: Loubser 2
Italy: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Mattia Bellini, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Edoardo Padovani, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Maxime Mbanda, 6 Braam Steyn, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Alessandro Zanni, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Nicola Quaglio
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Simone Ferrari, 18 Marco Riccioni, 19 Dean Budd, 20 Jake Polledri, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Matteo Minozzi
Namibia: 15 Johan Tromp, 14 Chad Plato, 13 Justin Newman, 12 Darryl De La Harpe, 11 Jacobus Greyling, 10 Cliven Loubser, 9 Damian Stevens, 8 Janco Venter, 7 Wian Conradie, 6 Rohan Kitshoff, 5 Tjiuee Uanivi (captain), 4 PJ van Lill, 3 Johannes Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 André Rademeyer.
Replacements: 16 Louis van der Westhuizen, 17 AJ De Klerk, 18 Nelius Theron, 19 Johan Retief, 20 Max Katjijeko, 21 Eugene Jantjies, 22 Helarius Axasman Kisting, 23 Lesley Klim
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
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