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Wallabies hold on for tight win over Italy

NZN 24/06/2017 Vince Rugari

The Wallabies have held off a fast-finishing Italy to escape with a heartstopping 40-27 win in Saturday's final June Test in Brisbane.

Australia looked like they were coasting to victory when Sefa Naivalu scored his second try early in the second half, giving them a 28-13 lead at Suncorp Stadium.

But two tries to the Azzurri - both coming directly from Wallaby mistakes - reduced the margin to just one point, and a yellow card to replacement prop Toby Smith put them right in the hunt for their first win against Australia.

First, Dane Haylett-Petty spilled a high cross-field kick in the 64th minute while standing just forward of the tryline, coughing the ball up to Edoardo Padovani to gift a five-pointer.

Then minutes later, a Rory Arnold pass was intercepted by Tommaso Benevenuti, who went on to score himself and make it 28-27.

But the pressure building on the Wallabies was relieved when Abraham Steyn was yellow-carded for a deliberate knockdown, erasing Italy's one-man advantage - and then Bernard Foley and Reece Hodge both crossed for late tries to close the door on the brave, under-strength Azzurri in front of 21,849 fans.

Coach Michael Cheika rated it as a better performance than Australia's limp defeat last weekend to Scotland, but admitted there was still plenty to work on, with their daunting Bledisloe Cup opener on August 19 against New Zealand just around the corner.

"I know there will be people who will be unhappy but it's about staying at it," he said,

"That's the only way to build those (positive) habits.

"There's no magic pill for anything. There's just training hard, staying at that, being disciplined and it'll come."

Man-of-the-match Israel Folau scored his third-consecutive double, while Naivalu's two-try haul provided them with the pace they'd been sorely missing - only for the Fijian flyer to trudge off early in the second half with a twisted ankle.

The Azzurri, ranked No.15 in the world, were missing around seven of their best players but still caused all sorts of problems for the Wallabies and started by far the stronger side.

They could have gone 10-0 up after seven minutes were it not for a contentious call from television match official Ben Skeen. He disallowed lock Dean Budd's try because winger Gio Vendetti still had a fingertip on the ball as he was dragged out of touch while attempting to pass.

Although pleased with their commitment, Italian coach Conor O'Shea was shattered with the result.

"I'm gutted we lost ... I'm not here to come second," he said.

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