NELSON, NEW ZEALAND // Italy secured a bonus point in a 27-10 win over a resilient United States at the Rugby World Cup, setting up the Pool C match against Ireland to determine one quarter-final spot.
The Italians gave a patchy performance at Trafalgar Park despite dominating the possession — thanks to a lopsided 19-7 penalty count. Because of the US's tenacious scrambling defence, Italy were forced to wait until the 66th minute for their fourth try to earn a bonus point, from a penalty try.
Sergio Parisse, the No 8 and captain, the fly-half Luciano Orquera and the tight head prop Martin Castrogiovanni scored in the first half for Italy, while the US full-back Chris Wyles scored a stunning try after receiving a pass following centre Paul Emerick's bust from a line-out.
Italy needed a bonus point to help their calculations for the quarter-finals, which could come down to tries and points scored in the tournament if they beat Ireland on Sunday.
But the US defence held firm for long stretches, three times denying the Six Nations side from scoring a try with the assistance of the video referee.
"We're happy. Obviously we'll take the five points — that was the important thing for us," Parisse said. "The USA gave us a lot of hard work. We scored four tries, that's important. Now we're looking forward for the last match against Ireland with a lot of confidence."
Eddie O'Sullivan, the US coach, had said beforehand that his expectations were limited to wanting his players, in their last match, to test Italy.
He was not disappointed. Outmatched in the scrum, the US midfield defence was ferocious, with Todd Clever particularly inspirational. He made crunching hits, stole turnovers and won a personal duel with Italy's similarly talismanic captain, Parisse.
The US had just 36 per cent of field territory and was forced to play from deep when the ball was secured — usually from a line-out that stole five throws or half the Italian total — but still showed inventiveness and a willingness to take risks.
"We gave it all we had. At the end, it wasn't enough against a strong Italian side," Clever said. "I'm just super proud of the guys ... We're going to be a great team in the near future."