Ireland rout Italians but could yet rue injuries and tries conceded

Ireland ran in eight converted tries to secure a bonus-point victory over Italy and make it two wins from two in the 2018 Six Nations Championship.

Centre Robbie Henshaw and winger Jacob Stockdale both crossed twice with the others by Conor Murray, Bundee Aki, Keith Earls and skipper Rory Best.

The home side did however concede three second half tries that will no doubt frustrate Joe Schmidt and give opposition attack coaches something to focus on for the next three rounds of the championship.

Tommaso Allan, Eduardo Gori and Matteo Minozzi touched down for Italy as the Azzuri were facing a shutout having registered no points in the opening half. Despite leaking those second half tries, Schmidt must be satisfied with the overall performance that sees Ireland sit top of the table after two rounds.

 

Leinster’s Jordan Larmour came on as a replacement when Henshaw was injured and although he showed some nice footwork on debut he will have disappointed with some of his defensive work in the second half.

Right from the off Ireland looked to put width on the ball and had secured the bonus point before half time. Ireland’s ability to attack the Italians in the wide channels was identified by Schmidt in his post match comments.

“Both teams tried to use the ball in dry conditions and we got some good width to our game. That was the positive.

“The negative is conceding those tries – that was the disappointing thing.

“In the context of the championship hopefully it won’t damage us too badly, perhaps on points differential. We had two 21-year-old wingers out there in the end and it’s a good learning experience.”

While there is no question that greater challenges lie ahead for this team with a wounded but dangerous dragon set to arrive in Dublin in two weeks time, the coaching team can only be happy with the strength and depth of the current Irish panel.

Dan Leavy – in for the injured Josh van der Flier – was again impressive in the number seven shirt and forced the turnover that led to the bonus-point try by Earls in the first half.

Murray and Johnny Sexton again worked well at half backs and exerted control over the game. It is also worth noting that this Irish side had to cope with the loss of the Lions tight-head prop after just three minutes but it didn’t disrupt the hosts as Andrew Porter, 22, slotted in seamlessly.

Sexton and Murray, who both played the full match in Paris, were called ashore in the 50th minute but their replacements, Joey Carbery and Kieran Marmion, kept Ireland on the front foot as the hosts ran in a further three tries in the closing half hour.

2018 Six Nations
Ireland (28) 56
Tries: Henshaw 2, Murray, Aki, Earls, Best, Stockdale 2 Cons: Sexton 5, Carbery 3
Italy (0) 19
Tries: Allan, Gori, Minozzi Cons: Allan 2

Ireland: Kearney; Earls, Henshaw, Aki, Stockdale; Sexton, Murray; McGrath, Best (capt), Furlong, Henderson, Toner, O’Mahony, Leavy, Conan.

Replacements: Cronin (Best, 60), Healy (McGrath, 67), Porter (Furlong, 3), Roux (Henderson, 40), Stander (Conan, 40), Marmion (Murray, 50), Carbery (Sexton, 50), Larmour (Henshaw, 44).

Italy: Minozzi; Benvenuti, Boni, Castello, Bellini; Allan, Violi; Quaglio, Bigi, Ferrari, Zanni, Budd, Negri, Steyn, Parisse (capt).

Replacements: Ghiraldini (Bigi, 44), Lovotti (Quaglio, 36), Pasquali (Ferrari, 56), Ruzza (Negri, 57), Mbanda (Steyn, 44), Gori (Violi, 57), Canna, Hayward (Boni, 56).

Referee: Romain Poite (France)

Touch judges: Pascal Gauzere (France) & Matthew Carley (France)

TMO: David Grashoff (England)

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Raffaele Rocca