OSAKA, Japan — Sergio Parisse started his fifth Rugby World Cup by guiding Italy to a 47-22 win over Namibia on Sunday, and going oh-so-close to celebrating the milestone with a try.
The veteran backrower was denied a chance at five-pointer when his forward pack was awarded a penalty try, then when he lost the ball in a tackle, and when he was called back by the referee after diving over from the base of a five-yard scrum. And from the very next movement, he picked up from the base of a scrum and crashed into the referee Nic Berry — the Australian official who may claim he deserves to be credited with a tackle on the statistics sheets.
The Italians conceded a try in the sixth minute to Namibia scrumhalf Damian Stevens against the run of play and wasted three good scoring chances but recovered to post three tries for a 21-7 lead before halftime.
The Italians scored four more tries in the second half, after some heavy rain, and Namibia added another two to cut the final margin to 25.
“There was a lot of tension among the team — we have been preparing a long time for this game,” said Parisse, who joined former teammate Mauro Bergamasco and Samoa’s Brian Lima as the only players to compete in five Rugby World Cups. “The important thing was to win, to take the five points. Congratulations to Namibia as well because they never gave up, they played until the end, so congrats to both teams.”
The Italians finally turned pressure into points and took the lead when Tommaso Allan burst onto a pass and crashed off the upright to score under the posts after a swerving, surging run from center Luca Morisi in the 26th. Scrumhalf Tito Tebaldi darted down the left flank and dived over after receiving an improbable no-look pass from lock Federico Ruzza right on halftime.
The bonus point was secured four minutes after the break when winger Edoardo Padovani ran onto Morisi’s angled grubber kick to the left corner, and the result was beyond doubt in the 47th when replacement Carlo Canna scored and converted to make it 35-7.
It rained heavily during halftime, making the ball slippery and reducing the opportunities for attack, but the weather cleared later.
The Namibians finished strongly, reducing the margin to 35-15 with a penalty goal to Cliven Loubser and a well-worked backline move from a set piece that resulted in JC Greyling scoring untouched in the 57th.
Jake Polledri and Matteo Minozzi added the sixth and seventh tries for Italy before winger Chad Plato sprinted 40 meters for a crowd-pleasing try for Namibia at the end.
While it was a positive start to the tournament, it extended an unwanted record for Namibia, which has now played 20 games at the Rugby World Cup without a win.
Namibia hadn’t played a test since June, and was the lowest-ranked team at the tournament, at No. 23.
“I’m very proud of the players, the way we adapted to the speed of the game,” Namibia coach Phil Davies said. “Some of the tries we scored and some of the resolute defense, I was really happy. But credit to Italy, they put a bit of pressure on and scored at crucial times.”
The Namibians will play South Africa next Saturday, while Italy has a shorter turnaround and takes on Canada at Fukuoka on Thursday.
“We’ll have to move on from that pretty quickly. It wasn’t very pretty,” Italy coach Conor O’Shea said. “We’re disappointed with the way we played. We have a job to do in these first two games and you know that’s not the true version of us. But we’ll take five points and we’ll move on quickly.”