Italy 10 Ireland 48
IRELAND consigned hapless Italy to a 30th straight Six Nations defeat in the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Saturday afternoon with a six-try showing being enough to secure Ireland’s first win of the campaign.
The Italians gave away 20 penalties and missed 30 tackles, so Ireland were always going to win, but Ireland head coach Andy Farrell will certainly have been encouraged with some of Ireland’s play, even if it will have to replicated against better opposition before we can start talking about a resurgence.
Italy started on the front foot, with out-half Paolo Garbisi slotting a third-minute penalty to ensure they drew first blood, although unfortunately for the home side their early lead did not last long, with Jonathan Sexton levelling matters just two minutes later.
Iain Henderson thought he had scored a try from close range soon after, but the TMO bizarrely failed to give the score, but almost immediately Ireland made sure, with centre Garry Ringrose brilliantly accelerating through two Italian defenders to crash over for an excellent score in the 10th minute.
Sexton added another penalty in the 17th minute as Ireland looked to put the game to bed early, and although the Italians had a lot of possession and territory in the next 10 minutes they failed to hurt Ireland where it counts, on the scoreboard.
And when Ireland got back into the Azzuri half they were ruthless, with some slick handling leading up to a wonderful offload in midfield from Ringrose in the 31st minute, which allowed full-back Hugo Keenan to run in an excellent score from 40m for his fourth try for Ireland.
Try number three arrived just four minutes later, and it was another one made in Leinster, with Jamison Gibson-Park and Ronan Kelleher combining to feed Sexton arriving from deep, and with players outside him, he was able to pop to Jordan Larmour, who was able to offload to Will Connors out wide for a simple run-in.
It had been a horrible half an hour for Italy but at least they finished the half on a high, with the talented Garbisi offloading out of the tackle, down in the left corner, which allowed his openside Johan Meyer to barrel over, and leave the score at 10-27 at the break.
Ireland began the second half with intent, as the pack won a succession of collisions which ultimately led to a try from close range from CJ Stander in the 43rd minute after Tadhg Furlong had gone close seconds earlier.
The game went flat for the next quarter of an hour but two yellow cards for replacement Italian prop Giosuè Zilocchi in the 58th minute and Luca Bigi in the 65th minute gave Ireland a platform against 13 men.
And although Stander was denied a second try in the 62nd minute due to an earlier knock-on from Ronan Kelleher on the floor, Ireland were soon to score again, with openside Will Connors scoring again off an effective maul in the 66th minute.
With the numerical advantage, Ireland were on top but were not making it count on the scoreboard. They had another try chalked off as debutant scrum-half Craig Casey’s assist pass to James Lowe was deemed to have been forward in the lead up to Lowe’s score.
With the last play of the game Ireland were in again for their sixth try, with Casey and Sexton sending a pair of fizzing flat passes out to the right wing for replacement wing Keith Earls to saunter over for this 33rd international try, and Sexton added the difficult conversion to ensure he exited Rome with a 100% kicking record on the day.
Garbisi (1 pen, 1 con), Meyer (1 try).
Sexton (2 pens, 6 cons), Connors (2 tries), Ringrose, Keenan, Stander, Earls (1 try each).
Trulla; Sperandio, Brex, Canna, Ioane; Garbisi, Braley; Lovitto, Bigi (capt), Riccioni; Lazzaroni, Sisi; Negri, Meyer, Lamaro.
Bellini for Sperandio (41), Traore, Zilocchi and Cannone for Lovotti, Riccioni and Lazzaroni (44), Riccioni for Ioane (59), Mori for Ignacio (67), Ioane for Riccioni (69), Mbanda for Negri (75), Palazzani for Braley (77).
Keenan; Larmour, Ringrose, Henshaw, Lowe; Sexton (c), Gibson-Park; Kilcoyne, Kelleher, Furlong; Henderson, Ryan (c); Beirne, Connors, Stander.
Earls for Larmour (41), Porter and Healy for Furlong and Kilcoyne (46), Herring, Baird, Conan and Casey for Kelleher, Henderson, Stander and Gibson-Park (63), Burns for Henshaw (70).
Mathieu Raynal (France).