RWC 2011: O'Connor inspires Wallabies victory
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AUCKLAND, 11 Sept. - James O'Connor inspired Australia to a 32-6 win over Italy after coming off the bench to spark a second-half revival in their Pool C opener at North Harbour Stadium.
The sides were locked 6-6 at the break with two penalties apiece as errors and offences marred a first half played in damp and blustery conditions.
But after O'Connor was introduced shortly after the interval in place of Anthony Faingaa, the Wallabies scored 26 points in 20 minutes without reply to destroy the Azzurri's hopes of the tournament's first upset.
The Italians kept tackling bravely but the free-running Australia backs had found their feet and repeatedly found the gaps.
After the game, try-scorer Adam Ashley-Cooper paid tribute to O'Connor's influence.
"The guys coming off the bench had a real impact," said the winger. "They changed the dynamic of the game for us."
Scrum half Will Genia said of coach Robbie Deans' half-time advice: "We spoke about being more direct with our play, so we had a change in focus and it worked really well for us."
Ben Alexander crashed over for the first try in the 50th minute after the Wallabies stole an Italy lineout near halfway and Digby Ioane burst up the middle. Neat interlinking moved the ball from left to right before the prop was able to touch down.
O'Connor missed the conversion but soon after his pace got the Wallabies moving forward again and fly half Quade Cooper was able to send Ashley-Cooper in under the posts.
With his team running riot, O'Connor was the recipient of another well-timed Cooper pass and sprinted over for the third try, which he converted to make the score 25-6 on the hour.
Ioane blitzed in for the fourth after a well-worked move off the back of the scrum involving Cooper and replacement scrum half Luke Burgess. O'Connor's conversion took the score to 32-6 and his personal tally to 11.
Italy captain and number 8 Sergio Parisse offered hope of a consolation try with a storming run up the middle off an interception but his attempted kick ahead went awry.
With five minutes to go he fumbled at the back of the scrum as the Azzurri attempted a pushover try.
Italy coach Nick Mallett said afterwards: "It's a pity we didn't control the ball better for that pushover try. I think our forwards deserved it.
"I was hoping to get through this match without getting humiliated. At the end of the day I think the score's a reflection of the difference between the two sides."