Ireland answered their critics with an impressive 58-15 victory against Italy in Dublin
Tries from Andrew Trimble, Jack McGrath, CJ Stander and James Heaslip gave the hosts a 25-3 lead at the break
Further scores from Jared Payne, Heaslip. Sean Cronin, Ian Madigan and Fergus McFadden completed the nine-try mauling
The Italians grabbed a pair of consolation tries through David Odiete and Leonardo Sarto
After three winless matches in the 2016 Six Nations, holders Ireland answered their critics with an impressive nine-try victory against Italy at the Aviva Stadium.
In an entertaining game, the men in green scored four tries in the first half before running in a further five scores after the restart, which meant Ireland touched down nine times in a Six Nations match for the first time.
Italy, who had lost 10 of their 12 matches in the last year, looked good early on with Gonzalo Garcia almost opening the scoring after just two minutes but as the game went on the visitors were bullied by Joe Schmidt’s sides superior physicality.
The hosts then went onto lead 25-3 at half time after four well-constructed tries. Andrew Trimble, Jack McGrath, CJ Stander and James Heaslip all dotted down in the opening 40 as Ireland began to answer their critics with some free-flowing, attacking play. The struggling Italians were only on the scoreboard at the break thanks to an Edoardo Padovani penalty.
Things got no better for the away side after the restart as Jared Payne intercepted to score after just two minutes before Heaslip grabbed his second to put Ireland 39-3 up six minutes later. Further tries from Sean Cronin, Ian Madigan and Fergus McFadden finished off the nine-try mauling as Ireland romped to a convincing 51-10 triumph.
The visitors did get two minor consolations in the second half as David Odiete and Leonardo Sarto ran in consolation tries.
Italy, who had won only one of their previous 23 meetings with the men in green, made an impressive start to the game with Gonzalo Garcia almost opening the scoring after two minutes, but the centre’s foot strayed intro touch as he went over in the corner.
The visitors positive opening though was undone after six minutes as a Sexton chip ahead caused the Italy defence to crumble and ended with the ball recycled wide to winger Trimble, who showed great strength to coast over in the left corner for the game’s opening try. The usually reliable Sexton couldn’t convert, but the hosts led 5-0 after weathering an early storm from the Italians.
Despite their edgy start, try number two followed soon after for the Irish after 13 minutes with prop Jack McGrath picking and driving to finish superbly from close range for his second Test try. This time, Sexton had no problem from the kicking tee, 12-0.
Edoardo Padovani got Italy off the mark from the tee, but Sexton dusted himself off and slotted three more points for the hosts soon after to re-establish their 12-point lead.
The hosts then marched on back into Italy territory and following some great work from Trimble and Keith Earles, back-rower Stander, with a couple of Italian defenders hanging off him, muscled over for Ireland’s third try just after the half-hour. Sexton though again couldn’t add the extra two from out wide, 20-3.
Ireland then got their fourth try before the break in superb style with an end-to-end team try, finished by Heaslip to the delight of the Ireland fans. Sexton’s disappointing day from the tee nevertheless dragged on, but Ireland was well clear, leading 25-3 at the break in Dublin.
It took the Irish just two minutes after the restart to add try number five with Payne reading the Italians play perfectly to intercept and coast in to touch down between the posts. This time, Sexton couldn’t miss this time with a routine kick from in front of the sticks, 32-3.
A good driving maul from the back of the lineout then set up Heaslip to go over for his second score and Ireland’s sixth of the game after 48 minutes. Sexton again added the extras to push the hosts further ahead.
Italy’s defence was in disarray, and replacement hooker Cronin soon after took the ball at pace to race over the line for try number seven. Replacement Ian Madigan added the extras, 46-3.
The visitors then got their reward for some enterprising play from scrum-half Guglielmo Palazzani as he played in Odiete, who scampered in to lighten some of Italy’s scoreboard debt with their first try after 57 minutes. Replacement Kelly Haimona then added the extras to reduce the deficit to 36-points.
Six minutes later though Ireland was celebrating try number eight as a lovely little show and go from Madigan allowed the replacement to go over the whitewash unchallenged. The fly-half though was unable to add the extras, 51-10.
Sarto then grabbed a second consolation try for the Italians before McFadden bombed through a gap for Ireland’s ninth try. Madigan then converted to complete the scoring, 58-15.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Ireland: CJ Stander
Ireland: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Nathan White, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Fergus McFadden
Italy: 15 David Odiete, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Edoardo Padovani, 9 Guglielmo Palazzani, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Alessandro Zanni, 6 Francesco Minto, 5 Marco Fuser, 4 George Biagi, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Davide Giazzon, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Matteo Zanusso, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Quintin Geldenhuys, 20 Abraham Steyn, 21 Alberto Lucchese, 22 Kelly Haimona, 23 Luke McLean
Date: Saturday, 12 March
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Kick-off: 13:30 GMT
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Romain Poite (France), Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)