World Cup - Italy keep hopes alive with bonus point win
The victory moved Italy on to 10 points in Pool C, level with Australia and three behind leaders Ireland, who they meet in a pivotal clash in Dunedin on Sunday.
Captain Sergio Parisse, fly-half Luciano Orquera and prop Martin Castrogiovanni scored tries as the Italian pack proved far too strong for their weary opponents, who conceded a penalty try in the last 14 minutes.
"We are happy because we took the five points, that was the important thing for us," Parisse said.
"The United States gave us a lot of hard work but now we are looking forward to the match against Ireland with a lot of confidence."
The Italians were quick out of the blocks and a big score looked likely after a clever pop pass from lock Cornelius van Zyl set Parisse clear to score under the posts after just three minutes.
The Americans were not downhearted by their sloppy start and drew level 10 minutes later when powerful centre Paul Emerick cut through some slack Italian defending before offloading for full-back Chris Wyles to cross for an easy try.
Wyles converted his try and then he and Italian winger Mirco Bergamasco traded penalties as the fired-up Americans, who were hammered 67-5 by Australia on Friday, threatened to take an unlikely lead.
However, the Italian scrum was too strong for their opponents and they forced the determined American side to defend for long periods.
The pressure told when Italy grabbed their second try through Orquera after 30 minutes. As the US defence sprinted out, the fly-half stole in behind to cross for a score.
Italian muscle was beginning to tell and after being denied by the television match official minutes earlier, tighthead prop Castrogiovanni bulldozed over from close range to stretch the lead to 20-10 just before half-time.
Play raged from end to end at the start of the second half before American flanker Louis Stanfill was shown a yellow card after numerous scrum infringements close to their line.
Parisse rejected the chance to kick at goal and continually opted for the scrum in a tedious spell and despite their obvious advantage the Italians fluffed several chances to score.
However, Italy claimed the crucial bonus point for their fourth try as their forwards piled on the pressure and referee George Clancy awarded a penalty try for American infringements at the scrum.
Victory over Ireland on Sunday would probably send Italy on their way to a quarter-final clash with South Africa and coach Nick Mallett was keen to make sure his players had come through Tuesday's game without injury.
"The first thing I asked my players was if anyone was injured because I wanted to make sure they were OK for the game in five days," he said.
"I'm sorry if the game was not as open as some would have liked but you have to play to your strength and we thoroughly deserved the penalty try, if not more.
"Ireland played very well against Australia and dominated them physically but we know we have the better front-row and we will try to prove that.
"Hopefully those guys can put us on the front foot and that will make it more difficult for Ireland."
The USA captain Todd Clever said Italy had been tough opponents but was proud of the way his team had played.
"We gave it our all but in the end it wasn't enough against such a strong Italian side," he said.
"I felt the guys did well in the scrums and we weren't sure about some of the calls but that didn't help when we were a man down and that area put us under a lot of pressure.
"But I'm super proud of the guys. We played for each other, for the fans and all Americans back home and I believe we are going to be a great team in the future."
3’ Parisse try: Italy 5-0
3’ Bergamasco conversion: Italy 7-0
18’ Wyles try: 7-5 USA
18’ Wyles conversion: 7-7 USA
22’ Bergamasco penalty: Italy 10-7
27’ Wyles penalty: 10-10 USA
30’ Orquera try: Italy 15-10
40’ Castrogiovanni try: Italy 20-10
67’ Penalty try: Italy 25-10
68’ Bergamasco conversion: Italy 27-10