Jump to main content


Confidence-Boosting Display Gets Ireland Off The Mark

Confidence-Boosting Display Gets Ireland Off The Mark

Ireland came to the fore in the second half of this RBS 6 Nations encounter, with three tries in the final quarter seeing them run out convincing winners over a determined Italian outfit.

Keith Earls and Tommy Bowe touched down for Ireland during a tightly-contested first half which ended 17-10 in the hosts’ favour.

An assured place-kicking display from RBS 6 Nations man-of-the-match Jonathan Sexton, who accumulated 17 points, kept Declan Kidney’s men on course for their first win at the Aviva Stadium since last year’s Championship.

Google Ad Manager – 300×250 – In Article

And Italy’s resistance was well and truly broken in the final 20 minutes when Bowe, replacement prop Tom Court and Andrew Trimble took the Irish try tally to five.

The result saw Ireland bounce back from the disappointment of their opening round defeat to Wales and the postponement of the Paris clash with France two weeks ago.

The match marked Ronan O’Gara’s 118th appearance for the national side, seeing him overhaul Brian O’Driscoll as Ireland’s most-capped player.

At the other end of the scale, O’Gara’s Munster colleague Peter O’Mahony was also sprung from the bench in the second half to win his first senior cap.

Earls’ inclusion at outside centre was the only change to the team that lined out against Wales, with the Paul O’Connell-Donncha O’Callaghan second row axis getting its 22nd start in a Championship match.

Tobias Botes, who started at out-half for Italy, sent a third minute penalty to the left and wide. The early exchanges were typically fast and furious with Rob Kearney eager to attack from deep and Andrew Trimble strong under the high ball.

Botes converted his second penalty attempt from long range to open the scoring. Italy’s lead lasted just three minutes though, with Sexton landing a penalty from the ten-metre line after Alberto Sgarbi was pinged for crossing.

A surging break through the middle from Gordon D’Arcy showed Ireland’s intent again and Earls and Sean O’Brien were quickly up in support. Under pressure, Edoardo Gori had to concede a penalty on the right which Sexton knocked into touch.

O’Connell won the lineout and the forwards picked and carried close to the posts before Sexton sniped out on the right again, and Earls dummied and dived his way over in the corner.

The returning centre found enough space between Botes and Luke McLean to squeeze over for his sixth try in his last four Tests. Sexton followed up with a terrific conversion for a 10-3 advantage.

Kearney was soon countering again after collecting a garryowen near his 22, with Jamie Heaslip also impressing in defence when ripping the ball free from Botes.

Italy’s physicality at the breakdown yielded a third kickable penalty for them and while Botes’ effort from the left came back off the crossbar, there was growing intent in the Azzurri’s attacks.

Botes pushed a drop goal shot to the right and wide, but the visitors were soon back on the front foot and it took a timely tackle from Sexton to deny Sgarbi a try in the right corner.

Nonetheless, an ensuing lineout was stolen by the Italians and good hands from Alessandro Zanni put his back row colleague Robert Barbieri charging towards the try-line.

The score duly came when Botes delivered a neat pass for his captain Sergio Parisse to bound in behind the posts for a seven-pointer, with Ireland lacking numbers on the left.

The men in green had enough time to mount a response before half-time and they did just that. A kickable penalty was turned down and the forwards bashed away at close quarters before accurate passes from Kearney and Stephen Ferris put Bowe over in the right corner.

Sexton added a fine conversion to restore Ireland’s seven-point lead for the break, and they gradually built on that in the third quarter.

O’Connell and company maintained a high work-rate up front, wearing down the heavier Italian pack and opening up space for the likes for Earls and the excellent Kearney.

Botes failed to convert another penalty opportunity before the powerful Ferris burst through a tackle and almost sent Bowe over for his second try of the afternoon.

Sexton popped over a simple penalty for 20-10 after a muscular Irish scrum forced the Italian front row to pop up in front of their posts.

Kearney led Ireland’s charge back towards the Italian 22, following up on a promising midfield move involving Sexton, O’Brien and Bowe.

Tigerish defending from Mike Ross and Rory Best won turnover ball for Kidney’s side, keeping the Italians pinned back in their half, and more good work with ball in hand from Kearney, D’Arcy and replacement Eoin Reddan set up Sexton’s third successful penalty.

Reddan helped ramp up the attack again with some quick deliveries from rucks. O’Mahony and Donnacha Ryan made an immediate impact off the bench and after a darting run from Earls, Italy were soon back defending close to their whitewash.

The busy Ferris was involved twice as Ross and O’Mahony were both hauled down just short of the line, but pinpoint passes from Reddan and Sexton unleashed Bowe for his 22nd try in Ireland colours – he is now third on the all-time list.

Sexton converted to widen the margin to 20 points and there was simply no way back for Jacques Brunel’s charges, who visibly tired in the closing stages.

Bowe got 13 minutes at outside centre as the Irish bench was emptied late on, with Fergus McFadden coming onto the right wing and O’Gara taking over at out-half from Sexton who moved to the inside centre berth.

Another one of the reserves, front rower Court, made sure his 26th cap was a memorable as he burrowed over from a close range 77th minute try.

The preceding minutes saw Kearney launching from deep again and O’Connell driving on tirelessly with Ross continuing to hold up mauls and put pressure on his scrum opponent Michele Rizzo.

Looking much more cohesive now, Ireland reached the Italian 22 through good bursts from Reddan and Sean Cronin. A quick tap from Heaslip had the Azzurri scrambling and they could not hold out as Court crashed through.

Ireland signed off in the final minute with a fifth try, this time Reddan using turnover ball to send Trimble through a gap out wide and he ended his 60-metre sprint with a neat dive at the left corner.

Trimble’s second touchdown in five games was a fitting finish to a much-improved second half display from Ireland, who will head to Paris next weekend with renewed confidence.

Support Ireland on www.irishrugby.ie/facebook or search #IrlIta on www.twitter.com/irfurugby.