Italy posted their first win in the Rugby World Cup and consigned Russia to their second defeat with an emphatic 53-17 victory on Tuesday.
The favoured Italians raced out to a 38-7 half-time lead in their pool C clash and built on that in the second half as the Russian Bears were embarrassed in the scrums and were unable to match the driving power of the Italian pack.
Italy scored nine of the match’s 12 tries.
"I thought we started the game very well and I was very happy with the first half," said Italy coach Nick Mallett.
"Give them credit they played some very nice attacking rugby, they held onto the ball and ran at us. If they had too much more ball it might have been a bit more difficult for us.
"This was a nervous game for us because we needed to get five points from this game to make sure we went into that Irish game with a good shot.
"We haven’t often played against sides ranked lower than us. This is only the second time in four years that I have faced a side below us and I was a bit nervous about how it would go."
Italy’s fly-half Riccardo Bocchino missed an early penalty chance but in the sixth minute the Azzurri won the lineout and captain and No. 8 Sergio Parisse ran wide to score untouched. Bocchino added the conversion.
Italy had its second try after 13 minutes when Russia turned over the ball and wing Guilio Toniolatti dived over in the corner. Centre Tommaso Benvenuti made it three minutes later. Bocchino missed both conversions.
Toniolatti’s second after 23 minutes gave Italy the bonus-point try and Bocchino converted from in front. The Italian pack was causing all sorts of trouble for its Russian counterpart, especially in the scrums.
England referee Wayne Barnes awarded a penalty try after Russia’s scrum kept collapsing near their line, the simple conversion taking Italy to a 31-0 lead after 28 minutes. Italian hooker Fasbio Ongaro was harshly sinbinned by Barnes after 32 minutes for a shoulder charge and from the penalty replacement scrum-half Alexander Yanyushkin forced his way over for Russia’s first World Cup try, converted by Konstantin Rachkov.
Italy struck back with a try to scrum-half Edoardo Gori after a planned set move, Bocchino kicking an easy conversion to stretch the lead to 38-7 at half-time.
Benvenuti had his second try and Italy’s seventh after he grubber-kicked through and was first to the ball after 48 minutes. He missed the conversion and Russia hit back from the restart, wing Vladimir Ostroushko outflanking marker Luke McLean to score in the corner. Rachkov narrowly missed the conversion.
McLean made amends by breaking two tackles and scoring Italy’s eighth try after 63 minutes, Benvenuti missing the wide conversion. Russia had their third try after 72 minutes when a long, wide pass found centre Alexey Makovetskiy unmarked near the left flank. Rachkov failed with the conversion.
Replacement loose forward Alessandro Zanni burst his way over after 76 minutes to bring up Italy’s half-century of points, with Benvenuti again failing to convert.
Aggressive Russian No. 8 Victor Gresev was named Man of the Match.