Ireland recorded their eight successive victory with this five try, 37-13 win over Italy in Rome in what was a workmanlike rather than wonderful performance.
In recording their eight successive win in the Stadio Flaminio, Ireland showed plenty of grit and determination, survived a dip in performance at the end of the third quarter when Italy scored their only try and, stung by that score, bounced back to hit the Italians with two more tries for a comprehensive 37-13 victory.
It was, as coach Eddie O’Sullivan, had predicted beforehand, a physical game, the Italians, quite fairly, putting in the big hits at every opportunity and if Ireland’s performance was less than fluid, that can be put down perhaps to the difficulty of playing two games, away from home, in the space of six days.
Overall however, O’Sullivan, will no doubt be pleased with a five try performance and the fashion in which it was achieved.
Early on Ireland were scrappy, knocking on and turning over ball with even the mercurial, Brian O’Driscoll making uncharacteristic errors.
David Humphreys began with a plethora of mistakes but to his credit recovered superbly to boss the game, score a cracking try, set up two more to deservedly end up with the Man of the Match award.
It was a little over 17 minutes before the first score was registered. It came from a Malcolm O’Kelly take close to the Italian line, with Victor CostelloPeter Stringer sniping in close to the ruck for the try.
Humphreys landed a marvelous conversion and from then on the Dungannon man never looked back.
Humphreys improved Ireland’s situation with a simple penalty in the 25th minute and then Keith Gleeson did superbly well to get a pass away in the tackle to John Kelly who scored on the right.
Humphreys missed the conversion but made amends with a penalty just after Diego Dominguez had opened Italy’s account with a 33rd minute strike.
Dominguez looked a little out of sorts and he missed an opportunity in injury time to bring his side closer and then again in the second half the 36 year old was wide with a kick that used be meat and drink to him.
But by then Ireland had gone even further ahead and it was Humphreys who, now in imperious form, scored try number three. He started the move with a well judged kick ahead and when Gleeson and O’Driscoll worked the ball back Humphreys glided through for a glorious try.
Dominguez then made way for Ramiro Pez who almost immediately required attention when he went over on an ankle. However, his appearance at out-half signaled a revival in Italian fortunes and his conversion of Denis Dallan’s 15th minute try came at a time when the Irish had a somewhat jaded look about them.
But that try served as a wake-up call to the Irish. Humphreys made space on the right found O’Driscoll on the reverse and the captain scored under the posts (30-10).
Pez tagged on a penalty before Geordan Murphy – impressive all day at full-back – put the icing on the cake with a 73rd minute try, Humphreys knocking over the conversion.