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Risky business: Wallabies lucky to escape with win after first-half cruise, says skipper Sharpe

Wallabies skipper Nathan Sharpe is tackled by Martin Castrogiovanni.

Wallabies skipper Nathan Sharpe is tackled by Martin Castrogiovanni. Photo: Getty Images

FLORENCE: "Risky" option-taking in the second half caused the Wallabies to throw away a 16-point lead - and almost the Test match - against Italy on Saturday, captain Nathan Sharpe said.

Despite holding on for a gutsy, if imperfect, 22-19 victory on their third Test match of the European tour, the Wallabies were held scoreless in the second half while a committed Italy applied vice-like pressure to notch up points and storm back into the game.

Sharpe said inaccuracy and poor decision-making gave the Italians a reprieve after running off the pitch at halftime 22-6 behind.

Australia's Brett Sheehan is injured. Click for more photos

Close call for Wallabies in Florence

Wallabies hold out against Italy fightback. Photo: Reuters

"We were just inaccurate in a lot of the things we were doing," Sharpe said.

"In the first half we played with a lot more intelligence but in the second half you probably saw us ... we'd take a risky option with an offload, we'd turn over ball in their half and then we'd get the back to back penalties, which suited the style of Italian play and they were able to build pressure on us.

"The physical elements weren't the issue, we just stopped doing what we'd done in the first half and was working for us."

Italian captain Sergio Parisse praised the Australian scrum after the match but Wallabies coach Robbie Deans found little joy in the display or small pile of short-arm penalties the Italians forced.

"[The] element that worked very much for Italy was how they disrupted our set-piece ball," Deans said. "One of our big issues in the second half was we didn't have the ball, we didn't have possession."

The Azzurri were the far superior attacking team in the second half and effective in counter attack, evidenced by their only try of the match, scored by flanker Robert Barbieri off a lost ball from Sitaleki Timani in the first two minutes of the second half.

Were it not for the boots of both Berrick Barnes and Kurtley Beale, plus Nick Cummins's first-half try and two near-misses by the Italians late in the second half, the Wallabies could be travelling to Wales today with just one win from three and all the pressure from France weighing once more on tired shoulders.

Sharpe defended the side's performance, pointing to their discipline and accuracy before the break.

"You have to put that in perspective, one thing people have to take into account is it's very hard to win over here, against a tough Italian side at home," he said.

"Once you had given them a sniff, I thought it was a great amount of character shown by our boys and its adds to the reserves of belief to take forward, that they can win close games. Sure it would have been nice to kick on from that first half,  but in a lot of ways it is a great lesson for us to learn going forward and next year."

Deans could not give a definitive report on injured halfback Brett Sheehan, who limped off with an ankle problem in the first half. There is some hope the injury was not as serious as first feared after it responded well to physio.

Prop Benn Robinson is also expected to pull up without serious concern after being taken off with a head knock in the first half.

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Rugby Internationals 2014

Round 1
Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 18 vs TGA 18 Report Stats
FJI 25 vs ITA 14 Report Stats
NZL 20 vs ENG 15 Report Stats
AUS 50 vs FRA 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 47 vs WXV 13 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 29 Report Stats
USA 6 vs SCO 24 Report Stats
CAN 25 vs JPN 34 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 15 vs ITA Report Stats
FJI 45 vs TGA 17 Report Stats
NZL 28 vs ENG 27 Report Stats
AUS 6 vs FRA Report Stats
Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 38 vs WAL 16 Report Stats
CAN 17 vs SCO 19 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 23 Report Stats
USA 29 vs JPN 37 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
ARG 19 vs SCO 21 Report Stats
FJI 13 vs SAM 18 Report Stats
JPN 26 vs ITA 23 Report Stats
AUS 39 vs FRA 13 Stats
NZL 36 vs ENG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 31 vs WAL 30 Report Stats
USA 38 vs CAN 35 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 55 vs SCO 6 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
BAR 36 vs AUS 40 Report Stats
USA 6 vs NZL 74 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 24 vs SAM 13 Report Stats
ENG 21 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
WAL 28 vs AUS 33 Report Stats
FRA 40 vs FJI 14 Report Stats
IRE 29 vs RSA 15 Report Stats
SCO 41 vs ARG 31 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 18 vs ARG 20 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs RSA 31 Report Stats
WAL 17 vs FJI 13 Report Stats
SCO 16 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
FRA 29 vs AUS 26 Report Stats
Mon, 17 NovTimes shown AEDT
IRE 49 vs GEO 7 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 6 vs RSA 22 Report Stats
SCO 37 vs TGA 12 Report Stats
IRE 26 vs AUS 23 Report Stats
WAL 16 vs NZL 34 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs SAM 9 Report Stats
FRA 13 vs ARG 18 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
ENG vs AUS 01:30Twic
WAL vs RSA 01:30MilS
View All Fixtures
 
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