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Farrell's Ireland notch first win of Six Nations with six-try success over Italy

Will Connors scored a brace for Ireland as Craig Casey and Ryan Baird made their Test debuts.

Italy 10

Ireland 48

ANDY FARRELL WAS never going to earn World Rugby coach of the year for his side’s efforts in Rome today but the Ireland boss will be pleased to notch a first win of the 2021 Six Nations.

hugo-keenan-celebrates-after-scoring-a-try-with-johnny-sexton Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Ireland’s attack sparked on occasions, most notably for first-half tries by Hugo Keenan and Will Connors after offloads by Garry Ringrose and Jordan Larmour, although there will be realism about the quality of the resistance from a poor Italy display.

Ireland will be frustrated with their stop-start second-half performance as they missed chances to further extend their winning margin, with Romain Poite on TMO duty ruling out two possible scores, but it ended on a high with a late Keith Earls try.

21-year-old scrum-half Craig Casey and lock Ryan Baird both got 17-minute runs on their Test debuts in Rome, with Farrell sure to be happy at giving them a flavour of the international game.

Ireland had hoped to build momentum here ahead of their two remaining games against Scotland and England. A six-try bonus-point win delivers that but there will remain doubts over this Irish team until they beat stronger opposition than this Italian side.

On a day when Robbie Henshaw led the team out for his 50th cap and captain Johnny Sexton played the full 80 minutes, Ringrose, Keenan, and CJ Stander all dotted down tries, while openside flanker Will Connors bagged a brace in an impactful display.

There were further positives in the man-of-the-match performance by Tadhg Beirne at blindside flanker, while Dave Kilcoyne was strong at loosehead prop until he was forced off with a head injury. Tougher tasks lie ahead.

garry-ringrose-scores-a-try Garry Ringrose scores Ireland's first try. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Paolo Garbisi and Sexton exchanged successful penalty shots at goal in the opening minutes but Ireland should have had the first try just eight minutes in after a powerful attack from lineout, only for the match officials to incredibly miss Iain Henderson clearly dotting the ball down. TMO Romain Poite will definitely be hearing more about that one.

However, Ireland did dot down very soon after when centre Ringrose finished through Carla Canna’s tackle to the right of the posts after Stander and Henderson had gone close with strong carries from close-range.

Sexton’s conversion had Ireland 10-3 in front and he added a further three points when Andrea Lovotti was penalised by Mathieu Raynal for hands in the ruck. 

Though Ireland kicked poorly twice off promising turnover possession, their defensive work was strong and impressive loosehead prop Dave Kilcoyne won a scrum penalty as the Italians attempted to apply pressure close to the Irish tryline.

A breakdown turnover penalty from Henderson soon gave Ireland another lineout platform in the Italian half and their attack was superb. First, they made a good decision to snipe down the shortside off a maul that had trundled infield, with Larmour making big yards.

hugo-keenan-celebrates-after-scoring-a-try-with-tadhg-beirne-and-james-lowe Ireland celebrate Hugo Keenan's first-half score. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

When Ireland swung back to their left, James Ryan’s link pass allowed Sexton to move the ball on to Ringrose and he beautifully offloaded to pick out Hugo Keenan on a clever line, the fullback finishing from 20 metres out and Sexton converting again.

Ireland’s third try arrived in the 36th minute from another sharp lineout attack featuring lots of powerful carrying, then a slick link pass from Ronan Kelleher to Sexton, whose delayed pass allowed Larmour to get his hands through a tackle wide on the left, offloading to free Connors to score.

Frustratingly for Ireland, offside and scrum penalties allowed Italy one last chance in the first half and though the visitors repelled their maul strongly, Garbisi darted in between Tadhg Beirne and Tadhg Furlong to offload to Johan Meyer, who brushed off Larmour’s tackle attempt to finish.

Garbisi’s conversion left Italy trailing 27-10 at the start of the second half but they conceded just two minutes after the restart, giving up a second soft penalty for being offside chasing a kick, then Ireland ground towards Stander picking and carrying over to score from a metre out.

Beirne had a big surge down the left touchline in Ireland’s next promising attack but Cian Healy, just on the pitch as a head injury replacement for Kilcoyne, knocked the ball on under little pressure, with Keith Earls – on at half time for the injured Larmour – following that error up by kicking out on the full.  

tadhg-beirne-in-a-line-out Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

That helped to allow Italy back down into Ireland’s 22 but they gave up a technical maul penalty, similar to the one against the away team soon before, to ensure a missed chance. 

Ireland’s next visit to the Italian 22 yielded a yellow card for the Italians as sub tighthead Giosue Zilocchi blatantly played the ball in the breakdown while off his feet close to his own tryline. It looked like Ireland had a fifth when Stander hammered over after another scrum penalty, but it was ruled out for a knock-on on TMO review.

But the Italians were reduced to 13 men when captain Luca Bigi was sin-binned in the 65th minute and Ireland scored immediately from the ensuing maul, Connors powering over for his second just to the left of the posts. 

Casey and Baird were on for their debuts at this stage and the Leinster lock’s powerful carry kick-started what looked like the next Irish score but it was chalked off after TMO Poite spotted a forward final pass from Casey to James Lowe. 

The final stanza of the game was stop-start but they finished with a bang as Earls crossed in the right corner from a Sexton pass, the Ireland captain adding the final two points off the tee. 

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Italy scorers:

Tries: Johan Meyer

Conversions: Paolo Garbisi [1 from 1]

Penalties: Paolo Garbisi [1 from 1]

Ireland scorers:

Tries: Garry Ringrose, Hugo Keenan, Will Connors [2], CJ Stander, Keith Earls

Conversions: Johnny Sexton [5 from 5]

Penalties: Johnny Sexton [2 from 2]

ITALY: Jacopo Trulla; Luca Sperandio (Mattia Bellini ‘HT), Juan Ignacio Brex (Federico Mori ’67), Carlo Canna, Monty Ioane (Gianmarco Lucchesi ’65); Paolo Garbisi, Callum Braley (Guglielmo Palazzani ’77); Andrea Lovotti (Cherif Traore ’47), Luca Bigi (captain) (yellow card’ 65), Marco Riccioni (Giosue Zilocchi ’47 (yellow card ’61) (Riccioni return ’61)); Marco Lazzaroni (Niccolò Cannone ’47), David Sisi; Sebastian Negri (Maxime Mbanda ’75, Johan Meyer, Michele Lamaro. 

IRELAND: Hugo Keenan; Jordan Larmour (Keith Earls ‘HT), Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw (Billy Burns ’71), James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (captain), Jamison Gibson-Park (Craig Casey ’63); Dave Kilcoyne (Cian Healy ’47), Ronan Kelleher (Rob Herring ’63), Tadhg Furlong (Andrew Porter ’47); Iain Henderson (Ryan Baird ’63), James Ryan; Tadhg Beirne, Will Connors, CJ Stander (Jack Conan ’63).

Referee: Mathieu Raynal [FFR]
Assistant referees: Mike Adamson [SRU] and Craig Evans [WRU]
TMO: Romain Poite [FFR].

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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