Criticism unites Wallabies: Gregan - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Criticism unites Wallabies: Gregan

By Paul Mulvey 25/11/2002 06:38:09 AM Comments (0)

Wallabies captain George Gregan lauded the spirit of his teammates which lifted them out of two weeks of turmoil and restored some pride against Italy.

With a dour win over Argentina and miserable losses to Ireland and England behind them and stinging criticism still ringing in their ears, the Wallabies faced a no-win situation in their final Test of a troubled tour.

Nothing less than a convincing win over Italy was expected and anything else would have seen them mercilessly slated when they arrived home on Monday night.

But in driving rain at Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Australia ran in five tries to nil and could have scored several more in its waterlogged but entertaining 34-3 win over the Six Nations struggler in front of a crowd of 22,000.

The win certainly didn't revive their diminishing World Cup hopes, but it did show some desire in trying circumstances.

"This tour has certainly strengthened our team spirit," Gregan said.

"From adversity, things not going how you planned. You can either go one of two ways in that situation.

"You can fracture and people start looking for reasons other than looking at themselves and looking at the team performance. Or you can dig in and dig yourself out of the hole as a unit and I think that's the option we've chosen and that's strengthened our resolve."

Despite the conditions, the Wallabies managed to move the ball around, with Scott Staniforth's two tries and Justin Harrison's first Test touchdown all scored out wide.

After a tough opening 10 minutes in which Italy took it up to the Wallabies, a smart inside ball from Elton Flatley to second rower Harrison peeling off the maul gave Australia a 7-0 lead following Matt Burke's conversion.

Four minutes later, Flatley's high kick was spilled by Italian halfback Juan Manuel Queirolo for the Australian five eighth to follow up, toe ahead and let Staniforth win the race to dive on the ball.

Wendell Sailor then had his best moment on tour as he ran down the touchline, stepped inside a defender and laid off a great pass in the tackle for Staniforth to score again and give Australia a 17-0 lead after 19 minutes.

Ramiro Pez kicked a penalty goal for Italy to take the Test into halftime at 17-3.

The heavy conditions wore the players down but No.8 Toutai Kefu, who tirelessly made ground all day, scored a deserved try in the 65th minute as he stepped through Sergio Parisse and Pez and slid across the line to make it 25-3.

The powerful Stirling Mortlock, who was effective at fullback even though he prefers outside centre, stepped inside one defender 15 metres out then burst through three others to complete the scoring in the 70th minute.

Burke finished with two conversions and a penalty goal.

"The conditions didn't suit, but the other side weren't very spoiling and the referee let the play go on pretty freely and therefore we could throw the ball wide," Kefu said.

"If it was dry, we could have scored another 30 points."

The Australians' fragile pride was also helped a little by hearing of England's 53-3 thumping of South Africa at Twickenham today, a week after going down to the English 32-31.

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