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Dublin: 5 °C Wednesday 16 January, 2019

Ireland hammer Italy but eight-try win comes at a cost for Schmidt's side

Joe Schmidt’s men suffered worrying injuries to Robbie Henshaw and Tadhg Furlong.

Ireland 56

Italy 19

Murray Kinsella reports from the Aviva Stadium

IRELAND SCORED AS freely as had been expected in an eight-try win, but a hammering of Italy in Dublin came at a cost for Joe Schmidt’s side.

Injuries to Robbie Henshaw and Tadhg Furlong are big concerns for Ireland with Wales due to visit the Aviva Stadium in two weekends’ time.

The centre left the field in major pain in the second half after an excellent two-try performance, with his right shoulder appearing to cause the extreme discomfort.

Conor Murray scores his sides second try Conor Murray streaks clear to score for Ireland in the first half. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Henshaw required gas to ease the pain and it would be a surprise if he is not ruled out for a lengthy period.

Tighthead prop Furlong, another key man for Ireland, lasted only four minutes of the tie, pulling up in pain as he covered across in defence for Ireland, his left hamstring appearing to cause the trouble.

Starting number eight Jack Conan was also replaced at half-time after a positive opening 40 minutes, although it’s unclear whether that was injury-related.

Aside from those possible injury blows, it was a fine afternoon for Schmidt’s side – though he will have been disappointed to concede three tries to Conor O’Shea’s largely poor Azzurri outfit.

Jacob Stockdale scored a brace to take his hit rate to six tries in six caps, while scrum-half Conor Murray was man of the match in a composed outing alongside Johnny Sexton, the Irish pack giving their forwards an armchair ride.

Murray was among the try scorers for Ireland in a much sharper attacking performance than was the case last weekend against France, with Bundee Aki, Keith Earls and Rory Best also dotting down.

There was a debut for 20-year-old Jordan Larmour too, including one thrilling linebreak, while Joey Carbery and Kieran Marmion got valuable game time off the Irish bench.

The big concerns for Schmidt, however, are Furlong and Henshaw, while Leinster will be anxiously waiting on an update on their two star players.

Tadhg Furlong leaves the field with an injury Furlong left the field injured early on. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

With their players wearing black armbands to mark the passing of Ultan Dillane’s mother, Ellen, this week, Ireland’s attacking shape was sharp from the off, although the injury to Furlong did appear to unsettle them briefly, with a couple of handling errors in that period of the game.

But Schmidt’s men steadied themselves as Andrew Porter entered for a 76-minute shift, with Henshaw crossing for the first try in the 11th minute.

Stockdale carried well off a close-range scrum and after Iain Henderson drove close to the right, Henshaw ran an excellent short line off scrum-half Murray to break the tackle of Matia Bellini and cross just to the left of the posts, Sexton converting.

Ireland were by far the hungrier side and when Jack McGrath dove on a wildly loose Sergio Pariss pass, their attack fired again.

Murray looped off Dan Leavy down the short left-hand side just inside the Italy half, before Keith Earls and Stockdale handled to free number eight Jack Conan down the touchline.

The Leinster man arced infield as Murray ran an intelligent support line back to the outside and Conan flicked him a delightful pass as he drew the final defender. Again Sexton converted after Murray finished, Ireland 14-0 to the good.

Robbie Henshaw celebrates scoring his sides first try Robbie Henshaw opened the scoring for Ireland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Captain Rory Best went close from a driving maul just after the quarter mark, but Porter carried following the recycle and then Aki burst over the tryline on a clever under line off Murray, similar to Henshaw’s earlier score.

With Sexton converting, Ireland could suddenly begin to think of their record points total against the Italians, particularly with O’Shea’s side showing extremely poor discipline inside their own 22.

The bonus-point try duly arrived in the 35th minute as Dan Leavy made a brilliant breakdown steal just inside Italy’s half, allowing Aki to break on the counter-attack, draw in Italy fullback Matteo Minozzi and free Earls to finish wide on the right.

Sexton’s perfect kicking performance continued with an impressive conversion and Ireland held a 28-0 half-time advantage.

Schmidt sent Quinn Roux and CJ Stander on at half-time, replacing Henderson and Conan respectively, and the tries continued to flow for Ireland.

Henshaw notched his second when he intercepted Parrise’s loop pass aimed at Tommaso Allan, just about reaching the tryline ahead of the chasing Tommaso Benvenuti but suffering his serious-looking injury in the process of touching down.

Bundee Aki with Luca Bigi Bundee Aki was a threat for Ireland and scored in the first half. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Henshaw’s right arm landed down on top of the ball and he was in clear pain, taking on gas on the pitch to relieve the pain but refusing to leave on the stretcher and instead walking off in major pain. The blow for Ireland did at least allow Jordan Larmour on for his much-anticipated debut.

Sexton converted for a fifth time and final time, with himself and Murray soon making way for Joey Carbery and Kieran Marmion in the halfbacks.

After referee Romain Poite had denied Ireland a clever try in the 48th minute, blocking an inside pass from Peter O’Mahony for Kearney to run clear and score, Schmidt’s men were on the scoresheet again through captain Best with 53 minutes played.

Best splintered off to the left of a close-range Irish maul and with the aid of O’Mahony, Marmion and particularly Roux, crashed over for Ireland’s sixth try, Carbery converting this time.

The Italians took advantage of a momentary lapse in Ireland’s concentration, centre Tommaso Castello bursting outside Leavy to feed Allan on his inside for a converted try, but Scmidt’s men refocused quickly.

Aki’s pass after a clever screen play from Ireland close to the Italian tryline sent Stockdale over for his fifth Test try, Carbery on target again with the extras.

Robbie Henshaw leaves the field with an injury Henshaw was in agony as he left the pitch. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Italians scored a second consolation try as both benches were emptied, Minozzi evading Larmour to link with Parisse, who lobbed a TMO-reviewed pass infield for replacement scrum-half Edoardo Gori to scoop off the ground and flop over the tryline, Allan adding the conversion.

Stockdale scorched clear from deep inside Ireland’s half for his second try with under 10 minutes remaining, not even needing the inside support from Earls as he burned past the covering Gori for an impressive finish that Carbery converted.

O’Shea’s men conjured a third try, however, with Minozzi darting over in the left corner after Ireland were caught narrow in defence.

And Earls showed his pure work rate to deny the Italians a fourth score following Larmour’s linebreak, coming up with a brilliant try-saving tackle after sprinting 60 metres back down the pitch.

Positives for Ireland in the collective performance, but concerns with those injuries.

Ireland scorers:

Tries: Robbie Henshaw [2], Conor Murray, Bundee Aki, Keith Earls, Rory Best, Jacob Stockdale [2]

Conversions: Johnny Sexton [5 from 5], Joey Carbery [3 from 3]

Italy scorers:

Tries: Tommaso Allan, Edoardo Gori, Matteo Minozzi

Conversions: Tommaso Allan [2 from 3]

IRELAND: Rob Kearney; Keith Earls, Robbie Henshaw (Jordan Larmour ’45), Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale; Johnny Sexton (Joey Carbery ’51), Conor Murray (Kieran Marmion ’51); Jack McGrath (Cian Healy ’68), Rory Best (captain) (Sean Cronin ’61), Tadhg Furlong (Andrew Porter ’4); Iain Henderson (Quinn Roux ’40), Devin Toner; Peter O’Mahony, Dan Leavy, Jack Conan (CJ Stander ’40).

ITALY: Matteo Minozzi; Tommaso Benvenuti, Tommaso Boni (Jayden Hayward ’54), Tommaso Castello, Mattia Bellini; Tommaso Allan, Marcello Violi (Edoardo Gori ’59); Nicola Quaglio (Andrea Lovotti ’37), Luca Bigi (Leonardo Ghiraldini ’54), Simone Ferrari (Tiziano Pasquali ’54); Alessandro Zanni, Dean Budd; Sebastien Negri (Federico Ruzza ’58), Braam Steyn (Maxime Mata Mbanda ’54), Sergio Parisse (captain).

Replacements not used: Carlo Canna.

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Murray Kinsella

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