Ben Donaldson’s dream debut for the Wallabies turned into a nightmare when he missed a potential match-winning conversion with the final kick in Sunday morning’s Test against Italy.
Italy stunned Australia with a 28-27 win in the Autumn Nations Series — the country’s first ever win over the Wallabies and a landmark win against one of rugby’s heavy hitters.
It has taken 40 years for Italy to get its first win over the Aussies.
Italy’s joyous players did a lap of the Stadio Artemio Franchi after winning the fifth of their last six Test matches and although Australia changed almost the entire team which lost narrowly to France in Paris last weekend, the victory is still a major triumph.
They did it after incredible last-gasp drama — with Donaldson’s missed conversion in the 82nd minute costing the Wallabies a much-needed Tour victory.
It looked to be a fairytale unfolding for Donaldson when he came off the bench to have the biggest kick for goal of his life after Cadyn Neville scored in the 81st minute.
However, his kick, more than 10m in from the sideline, sailed across the posts.
Despondent Australia coach Dave Rennie said Donaldson was “hurting”.
“We’ll definitely put an arm around him,” he said.
“You can look at the last seconds of the game but there’s a lot of things that we got wrong… you feel for him but he’s not the reason we lost today.”
Wallabies players rushed to console Donaldson after his kick sailed wide.
Pressure is building on Rennie with just four wins from 12 matches in 2022.
Rennie said that he hadn’t underestimated Italy despite making 12 changes — one enforced —to the team which also lost by one point to France last weekend.
“We knew the strengths of this Italian side and we didn’t start well,” said Rennie.
“It’s hugely disappointing and not good enough. It hurts everybody involved, as we had a good enough side on the field.”
It was pure euphoria in the other dressing room.
“It’s an incredible win, there are no words that can describe it,” said Italian hooker Gianmarco Lucchesi to Sky.
“We were ready from the first minute and we went out onto the field with the right spirit. We defended and attacked brilliantly.”
It was also a win obtained without Italy’s star man, Montpellier fly-half Paolo Garbisi, ruled out with a hip injury the morning of the match.
Italian coach added Kieran Crowley said: “We’re planning to have a party tonight because in Test match rugby you must enjoy your wins. If it had gone over in the end it would have been a different situation.
“The positive for me is that we got in a position to win and we ended up winning. So we will learn a lot from that.
“The performance out there from the group of players was outstanding. I asked them to die for Italy today and I think they did that.”
A beaming Crowley laughed when asked whether Saturday’s win was the best of his coaching career, the Kiwi insisting however that beating the Aussies didn’t have any special flavour.
“Any win is a good result… it’s way up there, you look at the scenes after the game, what it means to the players and what it means to the fans,” he said.
Australia scored their other two tries through Tom Wright and Fraser McReight either side of half-time but fell to their second defeat of their three Autumn Tests so far.
Italy face South Africa in Genoa in their final match of the year next weekend and Lucchesi sad there were “no limits” to what they could achieve.
Italy showed defensive solidity in the opening stages, forcing Australia to kick an equalising penalty in the sixth minute after holding off intense pressure.
And after piling into the Aussies with a succession of line-outs the Italians scored the first try of the match, Bruno touching down in the corner in the 19th minute.
Australia were rocked as the volume inside the Franchi was turned up, and nine minutes later the hosts had a barely-believable 17-3 lead with a fabulously taken, and converted, try after Lucchesi recovered possession.
Capuozzo was most famous for his role in the Six Nations winner in Cardiff back in March, but his score on Saturday was possibly even better, the France born fullback finishing off a quick-fire passing move with a slinky-hipped dummy before crossing the line.
Australia closed the gap to nine points almost straight away through Tom Wright, who strolled into the corner after collecting Noah Lolesio’s defence-splitting pass.
That gap was reduced to two almost immediately after half-time when McReight broke down resilient Italy defending by forcing himself over the line for their first converted try.
Capuozzo had Italy dreaming of a famous win when he added his second excellent try of the day in the 64th minute.
But the hosts then handed Australia the chance to move back to three points with a poor error from Lorenzo Cannone which allowed Tom Robertson to slide into the corner and Lolesio to convert.
Allan’s replacement Edoardo Padovani kicked the last points of the day with five minutes remaining and that penalty proved to be crucial, as after Neville crossed the line Robertson had to make his conversion but shot wide to the delight of the home crowd.
— with AFP