Italy's 21-8 win over Japan secured their first ever berth in the Rugby World Cup playoffs
Auckland (AFP) - A record-breaking day for Michela Sillari helped Italy beat Japan 21-8 in Auckland on Sunday and book their first visit to the knockout phase of a women’s Rugby World Cup.
Sillari became the highest point-scorer for her country as the Italians dominated the second half of their final group match.
The result means winless Japan are eliminated from the 12-team tournament while Canada are guaranteed to finish as top qualifiers from pool B.
Italy’s hopes of advancing to the quarter-finals were challenged when the Japanese levelled the score at 8-8 with half an hour remaining.
However, Sillari stepped up to land her second of three penalties for the match and give Italy a lead they weren’t to relinquish.
Her points tally for Italy is 40, having surpassed the previous record of 33 held by Michela Tondinelli.
Italy recorded two wins in pool play for the first time in their history, having beaten the United States in their opening game.
Despite Italy making history, coach Andrea Di Giandomenico was unimpressed with elements of their play.
“We are happy of course, but we have work to do,” he said.
“There was no control in the match. Congratulations to Japan, but for us, we lost possession and lost control too much.”
Once again, their forward play lacked cohesion but they were threatening in the backs, with wingers Maria Magatti and Aura Muzzo particularly dangerous when given space.
Magatti opened their scoring with a try from a Muzzo assist before Japan responded with their only try of the game, to flanker Kyoko Hosokawa.
The outcome was still in the balance until the closing minutes, when Italian hooker Melissa Bettoni crossed.
The remaining games on Sunday pit Canada against the United States and tournament favourites England against South Africa.