SAINT-ETIENNE, France (Reuters) – Error-strewn Italy overcame a poor first half in blistering heat to secure a 52-8 victory over minnows Namibia in a lackluster start to their Rugby World Cup Pool A campaign at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on Saturday.
The Italians led 17-8 at the break and later scored a superb 60-metre try through livewire wing Ange Capuozzo. They earned a bonus point as they ran in seven tries in all, taking advantage of the wilting Namibians late in the game.
Namibia’s wait for a first World Cup win extends to a record 23 games, though they also scored an excellent try via wing Gerswin Mouton.
Italy were the first to score a try after 11 minutes when Lorenzo Cannone went over after a lineout maul with Namibia already down to 14 men as hooker Torsten van Jaarsveld was sin-binned.
The absence of the experienced hooker proved calamitous at a lineout four minutes later as No.8 Richard Hardwick took the throw-in, launching the ball way over the lineout and into the hands of the Italian backs, allowing Paolo Garbisi to sprint away and score to extend the Italian lead to 17-3.
Namibia, still down a man, scored their try from their first attack with a long pass down the line from flyhalf Tiaan Swanepoel, catching out the Italian cover defence and allowing Mouton to score in the corner.
Swanepoel missed two kicks thereafter but a nine-point deficit at the break offered hope to Namibia’s plucky players.
However, Italy were much stronger after the break and the difference in quality off the bench all too evident.
Lock Dino Lamb crashed over at the end of relentless pressure on the Namibia line in the 46th minute before Capuozzo’s break from inside his own half brought the crowd to its feet, exchanging passes with Monty Ioane to score in the 55th minute.
Italy’s fifth try came after another flamboyant break by the backs, finished off by the forwards pounding away at the Namibia defences before breaching their lines with replacement Faiva going over six minutes from time.
Manuel Zuliani took advantage of a tiring Namibia defence to break two tackles and race down the line for his 78th minute try.
Swanepoel’s failure to kick the ball away, and bring on the final whistle, led to a turn over that saw Paolo Odogwu finish the game with another try.
Tommaso Allan kicked over all the conversions and also an early penalty for a 17-point total. Swanepoel hit one penalty for Namibia.
(Reporting by Nick Said and Mark Gleeson)