FUKUOKA – Italy ran amok against Canada to bag its second bonus-point win in as many games with a 48-7 Rugby World Cup victory on Thursday.
It was not a perfect performance as Italy slipped at times from flair and finesse to sloppy, but it did enough to dominate seven tries to one.
With the Italians seeking a first World Cup quarterfinal berth, its maximum points from two matches sent a message to heavyweight South Africa not to underestimate them.
The Springboks, who lost their opener against New Zealand, paid a high price when they were guilty of taking Japan lightly at the last World Cup and cannot afford to do the same again when they meet Italy in Shizuoka in eight days.
Italy, still with the All Blacks to play as well as South Africa, showed its depth by making 10 changes to the starting XV when it beat Namibia and was still too strong for the Canadians.
A day after Uruguay’s shock win over Fiji, Canada started with hopes of achieving a similar upset.
The mostly neutral crowd also gave its support to the Canadians in the 22,000 seat stadium, but it was the vastly rearranged Italian side with the superior forward pack that controlled most of the game.
In a dominant opening spell, flyhalf Tommaso Allan landed a penalty and converted tries by Braam Steyn and Dean Budd.
Steyn sent Peter Nelson flying and barged between Nick Blevins and Jeff Hassler on a short-range charge at the line.
New Zealand-born second-rower Budd, filling in as captain with Sergio Parisse rested, galloped 30 metres through a non-existent defense for his try.
Italy’s explosive start realized 17 points in 15 minutes.
Canada arrested the scoring spree for the remainder of the half, but its own scoring opportunities evaporated with missed tackles, a misfiring lineout, and wrong options.
Replacement Matt Heaton dropped the ball when he had the line at his mercy after Tyler Ardron busted his way through the Italian defense.
DTH Van der Merwe confronted Italian fullback Matteo Minozzi with a two-man overlap and fed Gordon McRorie on the outside who was bustled into touch.
The second half was barely three minutes old when Italy was on the board again with Sebastian Negri scoring its third try.
Canada went close again when Van der Merwe set up Jeff Hassler but the cover defense put the wing out in the corner.
A penalty try for an illegal tackle by Heaton ensured the bonus point for Italy and reduced Canada to 14-men with Heaton in the sin bin.
Mattia Bellini stretched the lead to 36-0 before Andrew Coe scored in the right corner to get Canada on the board.
But the Italian pack, which had an impressive night, responded immediately to drive over the line for Federico Zani to touch down, and the backline followed with a long-range attack that ended the tame with a try to Matteo Minozzi.