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Dublin: 12°C Tuesday 20 October 2020
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Stamina decisive as Ireland dismiss Azzurri

The Irish backs brought their superior fitness to bear in a physical encounter at the Aviva Stadium, scoring a series of late tries to run out comfortable winners against Italy.

Tommy Bowe crosses over for his second try.
Tommy Bowe crosses over for his second try.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Ireland 42-10 Italy

IRELAND SCORED 32 unanswered points from a vulnerable position of 10-10 to record their first win of the Six Nations at the Aviva Stadium.

When Sergio Parisse glided over unopposed, on 34 minutes, to touch down under the posts, Ireland were creaking and in danger of repeating the follies that led to their opening day defeat to Wales.

However superb performances from Stephen Ferris, Paul O’Connell and Jonny Sexton kept them ticking over and two Tommy Bowe tries saw the Italians eventually wilt. Sexton converted 7 from 8 from the boot and Declan Kidney’s men drove home a 42-10 win.

Italy were first to threaten for points as Sean O’Brien was penalised but Tobias Botes lofted his kick wide right. Stephen Ferris bristled with intent throughout and forced an Irish scrum that led to a chance out wide but Andrew Trimble failed to connect with Rob Kearney.

Botes was given another sighter as Irish indiscipline stalled any forward momentum. The South African landed the penalty from 40 metres out on six minutes and Italy led 3-0.

Ireland were soon level as Jonny Sexton arose from a douse from the magic sponge to convert a penalty on the left wing. Gordon D’Arcy then burst through a gap in the Italian defences to tee the home side up on the 22. Jamie Heaslip made ground three times in a two minute spell and the ball was worked left for Earls to ride a tackle over the tryline.

The score – Earls’ 12th in green – was reminiscent of Brian O’Driscoll at his best as he dummied a pass to Kearney and set his sights on the whitewash. Sexton added a fine conversion from the touchline to make it 10-3 but, with over 20 minutes remaining in the half, Italy fought back.

The Irish back three of Kearney, Trimble and Tommy Bowe all failed to gather aerial kicks and the Italian scrum began to exert themselves. The reversal of early scrummaging fortunes may have been down to Healy’s sluggish recovery from a heavy clash with Andrea Masi.

Ireland could not manage to build any meaningful spells of concerted pressure and Conor Murray was not helping matters by being ponderous at the back of rucks. For every positive moment – Heaslip’s huge ball-winning challenge on Botes – there was soon an error – Sexton’s wayward pass to Bowe. It helped that Botes was visibly nervous at the kicking tee and his next penalty, on 26 minutes, thumped off the crossbar.

Jonathan Sexton kicking one of his seven scores today. / ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

The Italian out-half was then hopelessly off target with a drop goal in front of the posts but Kearney failed to find Sexton and the stray pass fell to Alberto Sgarbi, who was hauled down just short of the line. The danger seemed to have passed but Rory Best failed to find a line-out jumper and Botes took advantage of the acres of space out left to set up Sergio Parisse for a score under the posts. A conversion followed and Italy were deserverdly level at 10-10.

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Grimaces in the half-time queues at the Aviva were averted when Sexton darted a pass out wide to Ferris. The flanker unselfishly set up Bowe to score and a Sexton conversion made it 17-10.

Botes’ lamentable first start for Italy got worse when he missed another simple penalty after 44 minutes. Sexton showed him how it is done as two penalties made it 23-10.

Eoin Reddan was brought on after 53 minutes for Murray and added immediate impetus to the Irish. Ferris was at his marauding best on the 60-minute mark to leave Ireland yards short of the line and Sexton delivered another killer pass for Bowe to score his second try.

D’Arcy was revelling in his leadership role in the centre and Rob Kearney was in the form that won him worldwide praise in 2009. Subs Donncha Ryan and Tom Court combined for Ireland’s fourth try on 76 minutes. Reddan fed Trimble on 79 minutes and the Ulster man outpaced a tired Italian defence to make it 42-10.

The crowd quit shuffling for the exits as Sexton tried to maintain his 100% kicking performance but he dragged his conversion wide. It was the only blemish on a game that earned him the RBS shout as Man of the Match.

IRELAND:

Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe, Keith Earls, Gordon D’Arcy, Andrew Trimble, Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Mike Ross, Donnacha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell (c), Stephen Ferris, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip

Replacements: Sean Cronin, Tom Court, Donnacha Ryan, Peter O’Mahony, Eoin Reddan, Ronan O’Gara, Fergus McFadden

ITALY:

Andrea Masi, Giovanbattista Vendetti, Tommaso Benvenuti, Alberto Sgarbi, Luke McLean, Tobias Botes, Edoardo Gori, Michele Rizzo, Leonard Ghiraldini, Lorenzo Cittadini, Quintin Geldenhuys, Marco Bortolami, Alessandro Zanni, Robert Barbieri, Sergio Parisse (c)

Replacements: Tommaso D’Apice, Fabio Staibano, Antonio Pavanello, Simone Favaro, Fabio Semenzato, Kristopher Burton, Gonzalo Canale

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