It was another entertaining World Cup clash and a good one to follow the Australia v England game, as the Italian side came from behind and scored 18 unanswered points to overpower the Welsh and take the game out 32-16.
Trailing 16-14, the Italians fought back well and were led by captain Anthony Minichiello and Roosters back-rower Aiden Guerra – playing in the centres – who nabbed a double.
The loss leaves the Welsh side needing to beat the USA and the Cook Islands to have a chance of progressing but as for the loss to Italy, coach Iestyn Harris concedes the better side won. .
“I thought the best side won, I think it’s fair to say that,” Harris said of the Azzurri, boasting Australians of Italian heritage.
“They had a bit more class in a few little key areas, but we’ve got a great spirit in the Welsh side. My players gave everything they got, and I won’t say anything against them.
“I thought we had an opportunity when we put our noses in front, but we dropped a couple of balls when we had a bit of momentum. When you have got momentum in games, you have got to take advantage and we didn’t do that.”
With the focus on the NRL players, it was an honest toiler who has bided his time waiting for NRL opportunity that took the spotlight, as winger Josh Mantellato scored a hat-trick.
With the first-up win a good start for Italy, coach Carlo Napolitano praised his experienced side.
“Playing in our opening game of the World Cup, it is very important to get off to a good start. I am very proud of my players,” he said .
“All we are thinking about now is next week and concentrating on Scotland. Then we will work towards Tonga.
“You can’t get ahead of yourself. You have to take it one step at a time.
“It wasn’t a perfect game of rugby league, but what is? We have got things we know we can improve on throughout the week, and that is what we will do. We will fix what we need to fix.”
Italy 32 (Mantellato 3, Guerra 2, Centrone, M. Minichiello; Goals: Mantellato 2) def. Wales 16 (Kear, Evans & Lloyd; Goals: White 2).