veni vidi vici

Flickers of sunshine rugby as Ireland end winless run with nine-try demolition of Italy

Jamie Heaslip scored two tries as Ireland claimed their first win in five months.

Ireland 58

Italy 15

THE OPPOSITION WANED, the sun shone and Ireland made hay.

Joe Schmidt’s dethroned Six Nations champions ended the five-month wait for a Test victory in convincing style against a sub-par Italian side destined for another wooden spoon.

Having scored just two tries in the three Championship games before today, dry conditions and home advantage gave Ireland the perfect platform to rack up nine to add to their tally – including one superb effort finished off by Jamie Heaslip that will be present in many highlight reels to come.

It didn’t start off with bright, flowing, confident Irish rugby however. The green defence started off in familiar pose: narrow and vulnerable to quick hands. Only a timely Conor Murray tackle prevented Gonzalo Garcia from sneaking in a shock early try.

Andrew Trimble scores the first try of the game Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Fortunately, the Azzurri were in forgiving mood. A speculative seventh-minute Jonathan Sexton chip ahead bounced up awkwardly for David Odiete and he slapped it backwards to nobody in particular. Jared Payne collected the ball, recycled possession and the quick ball left found Andrew Trimble – the perfect man to finish the job despite the presence of two backpedaling defenders.

Sexton missed the touchline conversion, but another seven minutes on and Ireland’s lead was doubled. A penalty in the 22 was quickly kicked to the corner and Jack McGrath finished off a series of pick-and-drives from a pack keen to make their mark.

There were worries, but never truly for the outcome. Instead the concern of the comfortable crowd inside the Aviva Stadium was for Sexton. The out-half struggled to stir himself off the turf after two first half tackles. The first was a late tackle by Sergio Parisse – which Sexton converted into a three-point penalty – the second, was after the Leinster man set Keith Earls away with an inside pass.

While treatment arrived for the out-half, Earls used the break to good effect, floating a long pass right to Trimble. This time, the wing’s check inside did not bring a try for himself, but when CJ Stander picked up with the whitewash in sight a phase later there was no doubt he had the power to finish.

With Sexton patched up, Ireland unveiled a magic coast-to-coast try before the interval. A trademark loop freed the out-half to hit Zebo, who broke free of a tackle on the right side of his 22 and offloaded to Payne.

Simon Zebo offloads the ball Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

The Kiwi whipped the ball back inside to Sexton by halfway and his perfect pass to Trimble left Italy helpless to defend the acres of space left over for Fergus McFadden and the finisher Jamie Heaslip left of the posts.

Sexton ended the half with a third missed conversion, but that was one of few downsides with the score 25 – 3.

The in-the-wars playmaker upped his ratio to 50% immediately after the break after Payne gratefully accepted another gift from the Azzurri, a first-phase intercept on the 22-metre line that left him cruising under the posts.

That was a dispiriting nail in the Italian coffin, but not the final one. Heaslip rumbled over before Sexton and captain Rory Best were called ashore, Sean Cronin found a gap almost immediately after.

There was time for a landslide, but with no trophies on the line, urgency was understandably tough to come by. As a result, the crowd unleashed the Mexican Wave while Ian Madigan, McFadden, Odiete and Leonardo Sarto crossed at either end to improve the tournament’s aggregate try-count.



Tries: A Trimble, J McGrath, CJ Stander, J Heaslip (2), J Payne, S Cronin, I Madigan, F McFadden.

Conversions: J Sexton (3/6), I Madigan (2/3)

Penalties: J Sexton (1/1)


Tries: D Odiete, L Sarto

Conversions: K Haimona (1/2)

Penalties: E Padovani (1/1)


15. Simon Zebo
14. Andrew Trimble
13. Jared Payne (Fergus McFadden ’72)
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. Keith Earls
10. Johnny Sexton (Ian Madigan ’50)
9. Conor Murray (Kieran Marmion ’55)

1. Jack McGrath (Finlay Bealham ’64)
2. Rory Best (Sean Cronin ’50)
3. Mike Ross (Nathan White ’55)
4. Donnacha Ryan
5. Devin Toner (Ultan Dillane ’55)
6. CJ Stander (Rhys Ruddock ’62)
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Jamie Heaslip


15. David Odiete
14. Leonardo Sarto
13. Michele Campagnaro
12. Gonzalo Garcia (Kelly Haimona ’55)
11. Mattia Bellini
10. Edoardo Padovani (Luke McLean ’70)
9. Guglielmo Palazanni (Alberto Lucchese ’62)

1. Andrea Lovotti (Matteo Zanusso (’74)
2. Davide Giazzon (Oliviero Fabiani ’55)
3. Lorenzo Cittadini (Dario Chistolini
4. George Biagi (Abraham Steyn ’35)
5. Marco Fuser (Quintin Geldenhuys ’27)
6. Francesco Minto
7. Alessandro Zanni
8. Sergio Parisse (captain)

Referee: Angus Gardiner [Australia].

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