Argentina ended a seven-match losing run after accounting for Italy 37-16 in a willing contest on Saturday.
A drought extended by coming up just short to France in Paris last weekend had the Pumas keen to disregard flashy thoughts and execute the basics. They did, and were rewarded with five mainly workmanlike tries to one.
Italy was full of intent but a developing side with only 224 caps (Argentina had 617) struggled with accuracy and fluidity and was too often its own enemy: It committed 20 turnovers.
And yet, it was in the match for more than 50 minutes at 24-16 down, with cries of “I-ta-li-a” ringing around Stadio Comunale di Monigo, until Argentina set itself, held possession and caught Italy short out right for an untouched Santiago Cordero to make it a relieving 29-16.
Into the last quarter, the Pumas stole a third lineout before adding a penalty by replacement flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez, and finished their eighth straight win against Italy with a rolling maul try by replacement hooker Facundo Bosch, seconds after he’d knocked on over the line from another rolling maul.
Italy lost for a 16th straight time since the 2019 Rugby World Cup, with Uruguay up next.
The way Argentina started, it looked like it would be a rout. They kicked out of their half, captain Julian Montoya bossed the breakdowns, and they were up 17-0 after 28 minutes.
An Italy 22 dropout was returned high by flyhalf Santiago Carreras, fullback Emiliano Boffelli caught it and offloaded to lock Marcos Kremer to run in.
Boffelli also converted a try by flanker Juan Martin Gonzalez. Italy flyhalf Paolo Garbisi knocked on, the Pumas countered, Jeronimo de la Fuente grubbered and Gonzalez toed on the ball which conveniently sat up for him on the tryline.
A couple of Garbisi penalties had Italy trailing 17-6 at the break, then 24-6 quickly after following Argentina’s best-looking try.
Carreras sent scrum ball high, Santiago Cordero took the catch over Italy fullback Matteo Minozzi, and the ball was spread left where flanker Pablo Matera put in center Matias Moroni.
Italy was 24-6 down, but in a rare period when passes stuck, it produced a try from a quick tap penalty when scrumhalf Stephen Varney scored off a ruck. Garbisi added the extras and a penalty and, though tighthead prop Marco Riccioni was carried off with a knee injury, Italy and its fans were feeling hopeful again.
Cordero ended that hope four minutes later.