In something of a minor shock, the Irish defeated Italy in their opening round match of the 2017 World Cup match at Barlow Park in Cairns.
Despite fears around the heat, the contest was a willing one and the Irish, despite being tipped to struggle the most in the oppressive conditions, out-enthused and out-muscled a clunky Italian outfit.
With Terry Campese a late exclusion and an injury to Jack Johns providing extra hurdles for the Italians, they never clicked their attack into gear and the excellent completion rate of the Irish ground them into submission.
With three first-half tries and only a late intercept for the Italians getting them on the scoreboard, the Irish took in a healthy half-time lead. With the use of the breeze in the second, it seemed likely the Italians would rebound.
The early stages of the second period seem to indicate that was to be the case, yet errors plagued them and the Irish rode their luck at times.
Eventually the camel’s back was broken and three second-half tries to the men in green sealed the victory with Italy only managing to cross the line on one occasion.
Liam Finn was the maestro for the Irish and managed the game superbly throughout. Much pressure now falls on the Italians who need to win and win well in all their remaining matches.