TURIN, Italy, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Captain Felipe Contepomi kicked 17 points to help Argentina to a 22-14 win over Italy at Turin’s Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.
Rafael Carballo ran in the Pumas’ only try in the 50th minute after flyhalf Juan Martin Hernandez collected his own clever chip in the middle of the pitch to feed the winger.
Flyhalf Andrea Marcato scored two penalties and a drop goal for the Azzurri and fullback Andrea Masi ran over a consolation try in stoppage time.
The result eased the pressure on Argentina coach Santiago Phelan, giving his side their second win since he took over after last years’ third-place finish at the World Cup.
“I think today we were better recovering the ball when we were on our feet,” Carballo told reporters.
“Next week, in our preparation for the test with Ireland, we will work really hard like we have for this game. We are going to continue practicing this system.”
Italy had the visitors under pressure in the scrum in the opening period, and the Pumas were repeatedly penalised for collapsing, but Marcato failed to capitalise and missed two penalties as well as a drop goal attempt.
It was scrappy in the backs, with too much poor kicking from hand and too many passes going astray or forward for the game to gain any rhythm.
Inside centre Contepomi eventually got some points on the board with a 25th-minute penalty after he and Hernandez had missed early long-distance efforts.
Marcato levelled five minutes later with another penalty conceded for collapsing the scrum before Contepomi slotted two placekicks to put Argentina 9-3 up at halftime.
He split the posts with another shortly after the break before Marcato replied with a sweet drop goal.
Carballo’s try was one of the match’s few moments of excitement and came despite the Pumas temporarily being a man down because of Rodrigo Roncero’s yellow card for an off-the-ball incident.
Marcato reduced the deficit with another penalty in the 54th. But Argentina were comfortably in control and Masi’s late try could not stop them avenging the 13-12 defeat they suffered at home against Italy in Cordoba in June.
“We have worked a lot on kicks and it is frustrating to have to admit we made many mistakes, too many,” said Italy coach Nick Mallett, whose side lost to Australia last Saturday and face Pacific Islanders next weekend.
“I’m disappointed, we spent too much time in our half.”
Writing by Paul Virgo in Rome, editing by Alan Baldwin