Italy saw their Rugby World Cup quarter-final hopes flash before their eyes prior to prevailing 23-18 over courageous minnows Canada in their Pool D match at Elland Road.
Jacques Brunel’s side trailed 15-13 midway through the second half, but this 57th-minute try from Gonzalo Garcia gave them a lead which they narrowly held until the final whistle.
Canada, ranked 18 in the world, stormed into a 10-0 lead as DTH van der Merwe added to his try in the defeat to Ireland, but Italy responded within a minute as Michele Rizzo touched down.
A lively start turned into a tense contest in which Canada did the bulk of the attacking. Both teams missed penalties, but Tommaso Allan split the posts to give Italy a 13-10 lead at the break.
Matt Evans crossed four minutes into the second half to deservedly restore Canada’s advantage, and they could have been further ahead had Phil MacKenzie’s try not been ruled out for a forward pass.
Italy, beaten in their opening match by France, could not afford to lose ahead of what is now a crunch match against Ireland next weekend, and Garcia powered over the line for the crucial try.
A Nathan Hirayama penalty nine minutes from time pulled Canada within two and set up a nervy finish, but Allan made the hard-fought win safe for Italy with a successful kick of his own late on.
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