England score big against Italy but Ireland still control their fate
Seven tries an impressive haul but not enough to make Ireland’s life harder in Paris
The England team celebrate Jack Nowell’s try in Rome. Photograph: Andrew Fosker/Inpho
England’s Jack Nowell scores the fourth try in Rome. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Italy 11 England 52
They gave it a good lash, but England could not make life any more difficult for Ireland than it already is. A 41-point win in Rome was not good enough to overtake Joe Schmidt’s side on points difference on this the final day of the Six Nations.
Ireland, therefore, know a win of any sort against France in Paris this evening will be enough to claim the title. Mathematically, France can still claim it but they will need a monstrous score to overtake Stuart Lancaster’s men, though a win would see Ireland finish third on a day that promised so much more.
In the end, England whittled Ireland’s advantage from 49 down to eight, thanks to seven tries at the Stadio Olimpico, including 22 from outhalf Owen Farrell, who kicked everything for 17-point haul with his boot and ran in the second try in between a race from fullback and man-of-the-match Mike Brown.
At halftime, Lancaster’s men led 24-6 and went about eating into Ireland’s advantage after the break with jack Nowell’s first ever international try, another from Makho Vunipola, replacement Manu Tuilagi and finally captain Chris Robshaw in injury time.
Ireland will be grateful for Leonardo Sartro’s interception try in the 68th minute, immediately after Tuilagi’s score threatened to open the floodgates at the other. Instead, England’s momentum was disrupted and the bench did not deliver like Lancaster would have hoped.
A cagey opening saw Italy dominate possession and draw first blood with a long-range penalty from Luciano Orquera that was greeted with a mighty roar from the sell-out 80,000 crowd. Farrell levelled the score with a penalty and the Red Rose went on the offensive, rapidly spinning the ball left and right as they probed for weaknesses.
A brilliant offload from Luther Burrell pierced Italy’s defence with the Northampton centre’s pass out of a tackle by Gonzalo Garcia finding Brown who switched on the afterburners and raced over. Loosehead Vunipola was penalised at a scrum and Orquera obliged with the three points to keep Italy in touch.
Brown was involved in just about every England move and when Burrell powered into space and fed Danny Care they looked on for a second try, but Italy’s cover defence was solid.
Burrell and Care were prominent as England attacked again and this time they were able to cross the whitewash, their scrumhalf darting across field and sending Farrell in under the posts. Farrell then turned provider as he rode a tackle and expertly slipped a pass to Brown who galloped over.
Campagnaro took advantage of Burrell being caught out of position to break free amid a promising start to the second half from Italy, but England were soon back on the offensive. The tempo was lifted but passes were failing to stick, number eight Ben Morgan knocking on at full tilt and Vunipola spilling forward. Burrell went within a whisker of scoring but the ball was kicked from his grasp by an unconventional late tackle made out of hope rather than expectation.
Italy’s problems mounted when Marco Bortolami was sin-binned for off-side and soon after their whitewash was breached for a fourth time, Nowell rounding off a backs move at a scrum. Adding to their woes was the 53rd minute arrival of Tuilagi from the bench, although the decision to bring him on at the expense of the superb Burrell was odd.
Italy’s defence was falling to pieces and they effectively waved England through for their next two tries with Vunipola and Tuilagi strolling over.
It was then the visitors’ turn to blunder, however, with wing Sarto picking off an intercept try from Joe Launchbury’s pass. The flow of tries had dried up, but there was still time for one more with Robshaw taking Farrell’s injury-time pass and coasting over.