The Wallabies have maintained their undefeated record against Italy with a much-needed 26-7 win in Padova.
Up against the tough but inconsistent Italians, a win was the only acceptable result but it was the margin that would prove most telling about this Wallabies outfit.
They ended up with a four-try, 19-point victory that only occasionally saw the Wallabies click into gear in attack, but with a strong defensive performance for most of the 80 minutes.
The win came at a cost, however, with David Pocock leaving the field with concussion; putting him in doubt for the big England clash next weekend.
Having led 14-0 at halftime, and 21-0 soon after, the Wallabies looked to be pushing away but Italy came back into game with a runaway try and then camped on Australia's line for large chunks of the second 40.
When Scott Sio was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-down, the Azzurri pressed hard with numerous scrums to try and bring the score within one try's difference.
But the gold scrum held firm, and led by captain Michael Hooper, the Wallabies' defence also refused to yield.
Poor handling saw the Wallabies turn over too much ball in the second half, and fail to kick clear, but replacement halfback Will Genia scored a try in the dying minutes to seal the game.
While some of the regular faces looked weary after a long year, new men Adam Ashley-Cooper and Samu Kerevi were both excellent and Taniela Tupou also turned in a powerful game.
In the end, a 19-point margin was a victory they really needed in a difficult year but it wasn’t exactly the statement that Australian fans might have liked to see from the Wallabies, with a huge 2018 finale against England still to come this season.
The Wallabies had some lucky stars to thank in the first 15 minutes with Italy having two tries disallowed.
Italy looked to have scored the first try in the sixth minute when no. 8 Abraham Steyn crashed over but a TMO review ruled he had gone into touch.
Though they didn’t score that time, it was a wake-up call for the Wallabies defence with a clever Italian kick setting Steyn up for the score.
The Wallabies showed they had clearly learned some lessons from their loss to Wales, with skipper Michael Hooper pointing to the sticks at the first kickable opportunity, but Matt To’omua couldn’t convert the chance.
It looked like second time lucky for Italy when Jake Gordon threw an intercept pass off a lineout but the scorer, halfback Tito Tebaldi, was ruled offside.
The Wallabies finally broke the deadlock just shy of the half hour mark, with Samu Kerevi sparking an attacking chain that pushed David Pocock into a gap down the centre of the field before he passed to Marika Koroibete to finish.
Kerevi was the driving force in the Wallabies’ attack for much of that first half and some of his bone-crunching defensive hits were felt around the ground.
Koroibete and the Wallabies went from zero tries in half an hour to two in six minutes when the winger finished off an Adam Ashley-Cooper offload to score in the corner and stretch the margin.
Ashley-Cooper did his World Cup chances no harm with a solid display on the wing and some smart link work in attack after a two-year Test absence.
When Taniela Tupou crashed through in the 43rd minute, it looked like the game was beginning to open up for the Wallabies, although the score did not sit well with the crowd as they watched vision of a possible Pocock obstruction.
A Bernard Foley pass that went to ground was scooped up by Italian winger Mattia Bellini, beating out Israel Folau to the pill, and Australia’s momentum was halted.
Foley was replaced in the 54th minute by Kurtley Beale after having little impact, a move that has left some intrigue around the Beale-Foley-To'omua playmaking triangle.
Sio’s binning for a deliberate knock down came after a period of Italy pressure but they managed to keep the Azzurri out in that 10 minutes under enormous pressure at the scrum.
Folau had a chance to ice the game against the run of play but the fullback was chased down and the chance snuffed out.
Replacement halfback Will Genia went over in a pick and drive in the 79th minute to take the final margin to that 19 points but it was certainly no cruisy victory.
Tireless backrower Pocock appeared the only injury concern, failing a HIA Test in the 52nd minute, ending his afternoon.
The Wallabies travel to England on Monday morning (AEDT) ahead of their final Test of 2018.
Tries: Koroibete 2, Tupou, Genia
Cons: To’omua 2
Yellow cards: Sio (60’)