Italy posted a 27-10 bonus-point win over the USA in their Rugby World Cup clash in Nelson on Tuesday to join Australia on 10 points in Pool C.
The victory keeps Italy's hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals very much alive, although they would need to beat Ireland in Dunedin on Sunday night and most likely deny them a bonus point to progress.
First-half tries from Martin Castrogiovanni, Luciano Orquera and captain Sergio Parisse got the job done for the Italians, while Mauro Bergamasco added two conversions and a penalty.
Just as it appeared they could miss out on the bonus point, a penalty try in the 66th minute was enough to secure one for Nick Mallett's team.
Chris Wyles did all scoring for the Americans, crossing for a try he then converted as well as adding a penalty for the outgunned USA side.
Italy had the first try after three minutes after stringing together multiple phases and number eight Parisse, in his 34th Test as captain, accepted a well-timed pass from lock Cornelius van Zyl to score under the bar.
Wing Tommaso Benvenuti almost had Italy's second minutes later when he ran onto a kick ahead but was unable to haul in the ball as he dived for the try.
The Americans moved the ball at every opportunity but handling lapses hurt them.
However, the United States gained due reward after 18 minutes when captain and flanker Todd Clever won a lineout at the back and centre Paul Emerick burst between two midfield defenders to set up fullback Wyles for a try, which he converted to level the score at 7-7.
Bergamasco regained the lead for Italy with a penalty goal after 21 minutes, but Wyles squared the ledger with a simple penalty six minutes later.
A decision to kick for touch instead of for goal on the half-hour paid dividends for Italy when Orquera dashed through a narrow opening to score near the left post.
Italy prop Castrogiovanni had a try disallowed after the TMO ruled he was held up over the line after 37 minutes, but from the resulting five-metre scrum the Azzurri kept the ball alive for several phases and Castrogiovanni was not to be denied after a second charge at the line, giving his team a 20-10 lead at the break.
Italy had a series of scrums near the USA line with the Americans unable to cope with a superior pack.
Eagles flanker Louis Stanfill was sin-binned after six scrums on the same spot, but the USA managed to scramble to touch after Italy botched an attack from another scrum feed.
Italy opted to kick touch from a penalty after 65 minutes and the forwards drove over the line from the lineout win, but the TMO ruled the try inconclusive.
From the resulting five-metre scrum, Irish referee George Clancy awarded a penalty try under the bar which gave Italy the bonus-point try they desperately wanted.
The easy conversion extended Italy's lead to 27-10.
That was the only scoring in a drab second half where the Italians did just enough to get maximum points and the Americans were starved of quality possession.
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