Tries in either half from Cian Kelleher and Adam Byrne were the highlights of a low-key affair at Dubarry Park as the Ireland Under-20s recorded their second victory in this year’s Six Nations at the expense of Italy.
Following back-to-back defeats to Wales and England, it was essential that Mike Ruddock's side produced a strong performance in their final home game of the campaign.
With a Junior World Championship adventure also on the horizon for this young group of starlets, there was no lack of motivation for Ireland in Athlone.
Like Ireland, Italy's only triumph prior to this encounter came against Scotland, but as a result of comprehensive reversals to both Wales and France, they entered this tie as rank outsiders.
The hosts were certainly eager to live to the billing of 1/50 favourites and they broke the deadlock inside the opening 90 seconds via a close range penalty by out-half Ross Byrne.
However, moments after the routine three-pointer, Cork Constitution prop Rory Burke shipped a heavy knock to his shoulder in an attempted tackle on Italian flanker Sebastian Negri.
After extensive treatment, Burke was eventually given the go-ahead to remain on pitch, but the stoppage in play did take much of the sting out of Ireland's encouraging start.
Byrne was off-target from his second kick at goal four minutes in and when the UCD clubman's clearance was blocked down by Federico Ruzza, Ireland were placed on the back foot for the first time in the contest.
They managed to hold firm on this occasion and although they lost full-back David Busby to injury after 13 minutes – Terenure College's Harrison Brewer, son of former All Black Mike, took his place in the back-three – they finally breached the Italian rearguard for the very first time just three minutes later.
A long spell inside the opposition 22 provided the platform for the try and thanks to a neat offload by Ross Byrne, man-of-the-match Cian Kelleher was able to cross on the left.
This was the kind of score that a fairly static fixture needed and thanks to a well-taken conversion from their reliable number 10, the Irish outfit had developed a welcome ten-point cushion.
Wingers Kelleher and Adam Byrne were really catching the eye with some incisive breaks, and when the latter's namesake increased his personal tally to eight points just past the first quarter mark, a rout appeared to be on the cards.
Unfortunately, there was a lack of intensity to the game and after Ross Byrne had fallen short from another place-kick effort, centre Dan Goggin missed out on securing the second try of the evening.
Ross Byrne's kick through was perfectly-executed six minutes from the interval, but his attempt at grounding the ball was unsuccessful.
This meant that Ireland were 13-0 to the good at the interval and though the lead was a fairly comfortable one, it did noy quite reflect the dominance of Ireland during the first half.
A bout of indiscipline three minutes after the restart presented the Azzurri with an opportunity to open their account, but out-half Filippo Buscema failed to find his range from a distance of 30 metres.
Indeed, just a minute later, Buscema found himself in the sin-bin along with Lansdowne back Kelleher after the two players had been involved in an off-the-ball altercation. Of the two teams, Italy had the better of the play during their absence, and their pack were causing the hosts team plenty of problems.
They lacked that killer touch inside the Irish half, however, and the victory was effectively sealed by Ruddock's charges – who were led well by Sean O'Brien, one of two Connacht representatives in the starting line-up – when Adam Byrne scored the try that his performance deserved via some excellent spade work by Kelleher and Ross Byrne.
Byrne miscued his 58th conversion attempt from an awkward position and although he came up short from another shot at the posts just before the 70-minute mark, Ireland had done enough to claim a well-earned success.
One of the big plusses for Ruddock on the night was the fact that he was able to fully utilise his reserves, and he will have plenty of food for thought ahead of their concluding clash away to France next week.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys (England)