Ireland run Italy ragged

Date published: March 12 2016

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Ireland delivered a nine-try hammering on Italy in Dublin on Sunday to pick up their first win of the Six Nations with a 58-15 victory.

Ireland's first win of the tournament came all too late with the title set to head elsewhere, but this was a welcome respite after a punishing opening trio of matches.

Italy frankly imploded, producing the kind of performance many feared before the start of the tournament when their squad looked short on quality.

Early optimism after they pushed France close in Paris has now completely gone. This really was a shambles.

Operating at a faster tempo and producing more offloads than we've seen so far in the tournament enabled Ireland to pick Italy apart at will, and their head coach Joe Schmidt will have been happy to watch Ireland play with plenty of confidence after coming up short at Twickenham.

The result truthfully looked like a certainty well before half-time.

Gonzalo Garcia's drag of a foot across the touchline prevented Italy from getting the perfect start as Ireland's scrambling defence reached the centre before he could cross the line.

Garcia couldn't make the hosts pay for a slow start and they responded well, Leonardo Sarto's mad decision to bat the ball backwards after a high kick being pounced upon by Payne, before Ireland recycled to put away Andrew Trimble for a score in the corner.

All the momentum now was Ireland's, as a Robbie Henshaw grubber kick handed Ireland the territory which ultimately led to their second try through Jack McGrath from a short pick-and-go, Sexton converting for a 12-0 advantage.

A breakdown penalty enabled Edoardo Padovani to knock over three points on his first start for his country but it was Ireland, full of running, who always looked poised to score the next try with Sexton in full flow.

The fly-half released Keith Earls into space off an inside ball to position Ireland five metres out, before CJ Stander did the rest from close range.

Italy were on the verge of being cut adrift down 20-3 prior to half-time but their efforts were thwarted, with Ireland going up the other end to produce the try of the tournament so far.

All starting from Zebo's break inside his own half, the full-back combined with Sexton and Trimble before Ireland spread the ball to find Heaslip in the corner.

Sexton couldn't convert but Ireland still held a dominant 22-point advantage going into half-time.

Italy didn't exactly help themselves when a gift of a loose pass from Padovani was snapped up by Payne for one of the easiest tries of his career, the returning centre running under the posts for try number five.

Heaslip added to the rout with his second try as Ireland felt comfortable enough up 39-3 to withdraw Sexton before the 50-minute mark.

Sean Cronin, replacing captain Rory Best, sauntered through a gap for Ireland's seventh try through some unacceptably poor tackling as the scoreline ticked over in the hosts' favour.

David Odiete's in the corner offered Italy some consolation although it was only a brief respite, Ian Madigan grabbing Ireland's eighth try to take them over the half century.

Sarto and Fergus McFadden both crossed for late scores as Ireland completed an enormous triumph over an Azzurri outfit who deservedly look set to finish bottom ot the table.

Man of the Match: All about attitude and Jamie Heaslip backed up his wise words in the week with a two-try performance.

Moment of the Match: The sublime break by Zebo up the touchline which after going through multiple sets of hands set up Heaslip for a spectacular try in the first half.

Villain of the Match: Nothing nasty to report.

The scorers:

For Ireland:
Tries: Trimble, McGrath, Stander, Heaslip 2, Payne, Cronin, Madigan, McFadden
Cons: Sexton 3, Madigan 2
Pen: Sexton

For Italy:
Tries: Odiete, Sarto
Con: Padovani
Pen: Padovani

Ireland: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray,  8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Finlay Bealham, 18 Nathan White, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Kieran Marmion,  22 Ian Madigan, 23 Fergus McFadden

Italy: 15 David Odiete, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Edoardo Padovani, 9 Guglielmo Palazzani, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Alessandro Zanni, 6 Francesco Minto, 5 Marco Fuser, 4 George Biagi, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Davide Giazzon, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Matteo Zanusso, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Quintin Geldenhuys, 20 Abraham Steyn, 21 Alberto Lucchese, 22 Kelly Haimona, 23 Luke McLean

Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Romain Poite (France), Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

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