Italy ended 49 years of hurt from Australia by upending the Wallabies 28-27 for the first time in Test rugby on Sunday (AEDT).
Wallabies debutant Ben Donaldson could have denied Italy after the fulltime hooter but his attempted conversion of Cadeyrn Neville’s last minute try flew wide.
Donaldson looked stunned as he was consoled by teammates, while the Azzurri rushed to embrace each other in wild celebrations in front of more than 20,000 supporters at Stadio Artemio Franchi.
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Italy had lost all 18 previous contests with Australia dating to 1973.
“So many amazing emotions, it’s an incredible victory,” Italy hooker Gianmarco Lucchesi said.
“We felt we could do it from the first minute. We went out on the field with the right spirit, we attacked and defended really well.
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Most of the damage was done in the first half when Italy took full advantage of Jake Gordon’s yellow card in the 15th minute.
Italy zipped in tries to Pierre Bruno and Ange Capuozzo’s first of two.
They built a 14 point lead and stayed in front.
“We didn’t play well enough,” Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said.
“Too many penalties. We gave them a head start, 17-3 gave them a lot of hope and enthusiasm and brought the crowd into the game.
“We’re well aware of the strengths of the Italian side so we needed to start well and we didn’t.”
Australia goes to Ireland next weekend for the fourth Test of its five match tour, while the Azzurri host world champions South Africa, which it famously beat in 2016 – also in Florence.
“There are no limits,” Lucchesi said.
With the rigours of a long tour in mind, the Wallabies were revamped with 12 changes from last week’s one point defeat in France.
They still came through with tries by Tom Wright, Fraser McReight and Tom Robertson.
Italy was forced into a late change after Paolo Garbisi had a toe injury and was replaced by Tommaso Allan.
Allan got the scoreboard ticking with an early penalty but missed his second chance.
When Allan was smashed over the touchline by a late shoulder hit from Wallabies scrumhalf Gordon, who was sinbinned, the Azzurri pounced.
Held up close to the tryline, Luca Morisi lobbed the ball to Bruno, who scored in the right corner.
Then just as Gordon’s time in the sinbin was ending, Capuozzo dummied to Bruno before bursting down the right flank and diving over in the corner for another converted try and a 17-3 lead.
The Wallabies responded with Wright’s acrobatic try in the corner after a great throw from flyhalf Noah Lolesio.
However, despite two attempts at the conversion due to an early encroachment by Italy, Lolesio couldn’t add the extras.
Australia reduced the deficit to 17-15 after halftime when McReight crashed over to the left of the posts.
Allan dragged a penalty wide but made no mistake minutes later after Australia captain Allan Alaalatoa was penalised at a ruck.
Another strong Italian scrum earned the hosts another penalty but Allan missed again from around 40 metres.
But that was quickly forgotten when Melbourne-born winger Monty Ioane carried the ball into the Australian 22 and Capuozzo burst through a hole for his second try.
Italy led 25-15 with 15 minutes left.
Allan missed another penalty chance and Italy gave Australia hope in the 67th minute when it made a mess of a penalty and Ned Hanigan slipped the ball to Robertson to cross, and the deficit was just three.
Edoardo Padovani missed a penalty after replacing Allan but nailed a second chance to lead 28-22 with five to go.
The Azzurri looked like they were going to miss out on history when Neville grabbed Tate McDermott’s pass and burst across, but Donaldson couldn’t convert on a day when Italy missed five goal kicks and Australia missed two.
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