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Italy's hopes of reaching the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup for the first time remain alive after their forwards overwhelmed USA on the way to a 27-10 win and a bonus point on Tuesday.
After captain Sergio Parisse had given the Azzurri a dream start by diving over for a try after three minutes, USA full back Chris Wyles's try and conversion began to expose Italy nerves that only a return a forward-based game could calm.
After running in nine tries in their previous win over Russia, Italy had hoped they could continue with a more expansive style of play against USA, but after they faced dogged tackling early on they tightened their grip on the match and rode out the storm.
“We watched Russia versus the United States and there was no dominant scrum," Italy coach Nick Mallett said. "We completely destroyed Russia’s scrum and there is no reason why we couldn’t destroy USA's.
"Clearly, we had a very dominant scrum today and it would have been ridiculous not to use the strength of our forwards."
Fly half Luciano Orquera danced over for his first World Cup try and man of the match Martin Castrogiovanni added a third on the stroke of half-time.
Italy secured the bonus point when referee George Clancy awarded a penalty try after USA had collapsed a number of scrums on their own line midway through the second half.
It was the second time in two matches Italy have been awarded a penalty try after their scrum had been collapsed.
"We are good in the tight play, so why shouldn't we be able to use it?" prop Andrea Lo Cicero said. "Why shouldn't we be able to profit from it? Why should others profit from being weak in the scrum?"
After Mallett made his anger known at conceding three tries against Russia, the defence was much improved.
Wyles's try aside, Italy's defence was able to limit USA's attacking forays and completely nullified their flying winger Takudzwa Ngwenya, who was seen as the Eagles' main threat.
The first time he received the ball, Italy second row Quintin Geldenhuys pounced on him and the second time his opposite number Mirco Bergamasco quickly closed him down.
It was an approach that met with Mallett's approval.
"There was one occasion when their No.15 (Chris Wyles) broke through and scored," he said. "That aside, our tight forwards defence and our loose forwards were outstanding."
The Eagles began to show their fatigue from four matches in 16 days, even though coach Eddie O'Sullivan rested 14 of the starting line-up from the match with Australia last Friday.
While they weren't able to reach their stated aim of winning two matches for the first time in a Rugby World Cup, they believe they can continue to raise their level of performance.
"We need the right people coaching it and the right people running it and we'll be on the right pathway to winning two games in four years' time," Wyles said.
"We set up a strategy coming in that we'd try and get two major performances against tier-one nations and win against Russia," O'Sullivan added. "We certainly achieved our goal."
Italy now need to beat O'Sullivan's former charges, Ireland, in Dunedin on 2 October to reach the knockout stages.
They have two days less than their opponents to rest and recuperate for the match, but despite having pushed Ireland so close in their 13-11 loss in this year's Six Nations, they will have to be far more clinical than they were against USA.
"We will have to score points however we can," Mauro Bergamasco said.
"It is the chance for all 30 players to do something no one has ever done. We have five days to recover physically and mentally and be ready for this huge battle."