Bergamasco makes Fiji pay the penalty
Mirco Bergamasco kicked eight penalties as Italy beat Fiji 24-16 in Modena on Saturday to end their autumn international series with a victory.
Italy had not won a game since beating Scotland 16-12 at home in the Six Nations in February.
The win was vital for the Azzurri following defeats to Argentina and Australia while Fiji can look back to their draw against Wales last week as the main fruit of their tour to the northern hemisphere.
Italy turned around at the break 16-9 down but an improved second half showing made the difference according to captain Sergio Parisse.
"The first half wasn't the best for us, Fiji scored from the one chance they had and although we had some breaks they managed to halt us," he said.
"In the second half we showed great courage, great tackles and Mirco had a great game.
"We showed great desire and the important thing was winning this game."
Fiji had a strong start to the game, running at their hosts from the off and the first 10 minutes was played almost exclusively deep inside Italian territory.
The Pacific Islanders deservedly got their breakthrough on nine minutes after going through the phases and pressuring the Italian line with hooker Talemaitoga Tuapati picking up and going from a few yards out, powering through Fabio Ongaro and Edoardo Gori to score.
Seremaia Bai knocked over the conversion but three minutes later Bergamasco hit a penalty for Italy.
A lot had been said before the game about Italy prop Martin Castrogiovanni's scrummaging and he forced a penalty from Fijian loosehead Campese Ma'afu which Bergamasco kicked on 20 minutes.
However, Albert Vulivuli made a scything break through the midfield and got within a metre of the Italian line but as Fiji recycled the ball, Vulivuli himself failed to read scrumhalf Nemia Kenatale's flicked pass inside and the chance went begging, although Italy were penalised anyway and Bai kicked the penalty.
Another penalty from the fly-half and one from Bergamasco brought the score to 9-13 but then Castrogiovanni was sin-binned for repeated infringements and Bai kicked Fiji into a 16-9 half-time lead.
Italy came out with added vigour and purpose after the break despite their numerical disadvantage and after a flowing move in the backs that was stopped down the right, Bergamasco kicked another three points.
Castrogiovanni came back on to immediately force another penalty from the scrum, which Bergamasco kicked, and on the hour the left-winger kicked his sixth penalty of the afternoon to put Italy in front for the first time.
Two more Bergamasco penalties late on gave Italy breathing space and they held out comfortably for the victory.