There was little doubt about the result of this game, between the champions, who have dominated the World Cup throughout its history, and the minnows of Italy.
Both teams got through their opening sets cleanly, but Australia made far more territory in their first six tackles than the Italians did, which was no surprise.
What was a surprise though, was Jeremiah Nanai making the first mistake of the the game, knocking on at the play-the-ball in the Kangaroos second set.
But it was the Kangaroos who opened the scoring when Valentine Holmes leapt to catch a Daly Cherry-Evans kick on the line and simply leant down to ground it.Nathan Cleary couldn’t kick the goal though, and lead was just 4-0.
With 10 minutes gone, Murray Taulangi ran down the line for the green and golds second try. Cleary stepped up to convert, but this time kicked short, and Australia led 8-0.
Australia crossed again just minutes later but were held up, and then forced Italy to drop out after they passed the ball into their own in-goal. They failed to make 10m with the restart though and both teams endured a period of scrappy play, before James Tedesco - who had previously played and scored for Italy - crossed for Australia’s next try.
Cleary kicked his first conversion and Australia led 14-0.
The score stayed there until just before the half-hour mark when Australia kicked down the right touch line and forced a goal-line drop-out. Italy went short with the kick and Campbell Graham ran in, leapt to pluck the ball out of the air and raced over the line to score. Cleary kicked his second conversion for a 20-0 lead.
A loose ball in front of the posts 25 metres out saw Italy dive on it from an offside position but Australia failed to capitalise on the penalty.. The Kangaroos weren’t firing on all cylinders, but were doing enough and when Mitchell powered through the Italian defence, there was no stopping him before the try line. Cleary’s conversion took the score 26-0.
Taulagi made that 30-0 just before half time when he scooped for a low Mitchell pass dashed over for a second try. Cleary failed again, kicking from touch after the half-time hooter sounded.
But a 30-0 half-time lead was better for the Italians than many observers expected, though.
Italy opened the second half with a daring attack up the left wing, but threw away the opportunity by kicking for the inside chasers when facing the second tackle.
Five minutes into the half, though, Tedesco broke down the left before passing inside to Cherry Evans who offloaded to Isaah Yeo, who ran over to score at the side of the posts. With Cleary’s conversion, the score now stood at 36-0.
Five minutes later the score had moved to 42-0 when Liam Martin crossed the line and Cleary converted, but Italy hit back after a short kick off paid off. They worked their way upfield before Palumbo dived on a kick and notched up a try for the Azzuri. Jack Campagnolo converted and Italy were on the scoreboard at 42-6.
But Australia restored the gap on 60 minutes, with a score by Murray converted by Cleary for a 48-6 score.
Campbell Graham added another try when he ran onto a short pass and barged through two defenders who looked uninterested to score. Cleary converted and it was now 54-6.
That was extended to 58 when Nanai strolled over for another try which moved the score to 60-6, with Cleary’s conversion, and three and half minutes to play as both teams started to look a little scrappy with the ball.
But following a one-on-one strip by Australia , Lindsay Collins crashed over between the posts in the final minute. With Cleary’s conversion, that made the final score 66-6.
Australia had walked into the quarter finals as expected and racked up some seriously large scores in the group. But at times they looked vulnerable and scrappy in some plays. There was a chink of light for likely opponents New Zealand and England.
Still, "We got the job done" declared coach Mal Meninga.
Australia: Tedesco (T); Graham (2T), Holmes (T), Mitchell (T), Taulagi (2T); Cherry-Evans, Cleary (9G); Collins (T), Hunt, Cotter, Martin (T), Nanai (T), Murray (T). Subs: Yeo (T), Fa’asuamaleaui, Campbell-Gillard, Burton.
Italy: Polselli,; Pickering, Atinson, Natoli, Maizen; Campagnolo (G), Robinson; Susino, Parata, Maria, Moretti, Santi, Brown. Subs: Tramontana, Palumbo (T), Colovatti, Celerino.
Full Time: 66-6
Half Time: 30-0
Score Progression: 4-0, 8-0, 12-0, 14-0, 18-0, 20-0, 24-0, 26-0, 30-0. HT. 34-0, 36-0, 40-0, 42-0, 42-4, 42-6, 46-6, 48-6, 52-6, 54-6, 58-6, 60-6, 64-6, 66-6.FT.
Venue: Totally Wicked Stadium, St Helens.
Referee: Liam Moore.