Roman nightmare rounds off miserable Ireland campaign
Injury and indiscipline help Italy claim first Six Nations win in fixture
Ireland’s Brian O'Driscoll sits on the sideline after being sin-binned in the first half of the game against Italy at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Ireland’s Cian Healy is tackled during the Six Nations match at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA
Date: 16 March, 2013
Venue: Stadio Olimpico
Ireland succumbed to a first defeat to Italy in the Six Nations after an indisciplined afternoon at the Stadio Olimpico when the injury jinx that has blighted their season also came back to haunt them.
If, as expected, this was to be Brian O’Driscoll’s last match for Ireland it was not the way to end such a celebrated career as the finest player his country has produced. Apart from the result, O’Driscoll spent 10 minutes in the sin-bin for stamping and was fortunate to escape a red card for an offence that is sure to result in a suspension.
Small consolation came when France could not beat Scotland by the necessary margin tonight to avoid the wooden spoon, meaning Ireland finished fifth in the championship.
From an early stage the Irish were in disarray, plugging holes left by injury and crumbling before a fired-up Italian side inspired by their omnipresent skipper Sergio Parisse and retiring prop Andrea Lo Cicero.
Lo Cicero, Italy’s most capped player who was appearing in his final Test, drank in the applause as he departed in the final quarter and he could have envisaged few better outcomes than today’s for his send-off.
Substitute Luke Fitzgerald then limped off shortly before half-time and having run out of three-quarter replacements other than scrumhalf Paul Marshall, flanker Peter O’Mahony was deployed on the left wing.
Wing Giovanbattista Venditti burrowed over for the game’s only try in the 49th minute, but Italy could have finished with several more and were grateful that Luciano Orquera and Gonzalo Garcia had brought their kicking boots.
The petulance that swept into Ireland’s game was disappointing with Donnacha Ryan and Conor Murray following O’Driscoll into the sin-bin, with the place kicking of Paddy Jackson — who finished with all 15 of his side’s points — as one of the few positives.
Ireland were at panic stations in the 14th minute when they were pushed back to their whitewash by a lineout catch and drive and only desperate defending and a penalty kept Italy at bay with Orquera on target to level the score.
A scrum-half break from Edoardo Gori, that saw him combine superbly with Parisse, was evidence that the Azzurri’s confidence was growing.
Orquera struck the left upright with a second penalty but was successful with a third, giving Italy a lead they fully deserved.
Time and again the Azzurri broke the gainline with Parisse prominent and in one glorious moment a long line of blue shirts was spread before the posts only for a lazy pass from Orquera to ruin the chance.
Jackson missed a tricky penalty and Ireland’s problems deepened when O’Driscoll was sin-binned for stamping on flanker Simone Favaro.