Italy captain Michele Lamaro praised his team for “embracing the challenge” of a 10-point halftime deficit to run out convincing 38-17 World Cup Pool A winners over Uruguay in Nice on Thursday (AEST).
The South Americans, seeking a shock win to mirror their victory over Fiji four years ago in Japan, led 17-7 at halftime as Italy had two players sent to the sin bin.
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But when Uruguay captain Andres Vilaseca was yellow carded early in the second period, momentum swung firmly towards Italy, with the team going on to score four converted tries.
“They put us under a lot of pressure but in these moments, what counts the most is how strong is the team and in the second half we showed that and smashed everything we could,” said Lamaro.
“We got in the changing room at halftime, we huddled it and embraced the challenge.
“We stepped back on the field with confidence. Stick together and every single moment win the little battles to win the final war.”
Italy coach Kieran Crowley said it was truly a game of two halves at the Stade de Nice.
“In the first half we turned over seven balls in our 40-metre area, our discipline wasn’t good enough, we had two men off,” the Kiwi said.
“17-7 at halftime, we said we’re not about to chase the game, we just wanted to be more direct, the boys focused on that … and took it to Uruguay.
“We had a second half to get us out of the hole we’d dug. We’ll bank that and go on to the next one.”
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Crowley added that as soon as his team reverted to keeping possession, things improved.
“It’s an 80-minute game! The heart’s still going, but it was a very good performance in the second half,” Crowley said.
“The boys were pretty good in that second half, doing what we wanted to do. ” “The pace of the game in the second half, they were a little bit suspect at the end,” he said of Uruguay running out of steam.
“But that’s rugby, you wear teams down by keeping the ball.” Having seen off Namibia 52-8 in their opening match, Italy have now amassed 10 points from their two opening Pool A games to set themselves up perfectly ahead of two massive matches against group favourites New Zealand and France, both in Lyon, on September 29 and October 6 respectively.
Uruguay had pushed a second-string France side close in their opener before going down 27-12 and will target their match against Namibia on September 27 as their must-win game from the pool phase.
Uruguay coach Esteban Meneses said his players and staff did their best, but the “Italians were superior to us in the second half and we were not able to reel them in”, as the Azzurri scored 31 unanswered points.
“The squad has shown enthusiasm, momentum and we’ll still keep working on that. Italy are a major team with a lot of potential and we weren’t able to match such a team.
“We made some errors which handed Italy the opportunity to gain momentum. In the second half, physically it was clear we weren’t up to the game and we suffered.”
Source website: www.foxsports.com.au