Planet Rugby

Ireland brush Italy aside

08th March 2014 16:26

Share:

Johnny Sexton Ireland 2014 edited 1

Two tries: Jonathan Sexton

Ireland have built a healthy lead at the top of the Six Nations standings thanks to a 46-7 victory over Italy at Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

In Brian O'Driscoll's final Test on home soil, the men in green outscored their visitors seven tries to one to further bolster their points difference ahead on next weekend's trip to Paris.

A brace from Jonny Sexton, combined with tries from Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Fergus McFadden and Jack McGrath saw a focused Ireland overcome a robust Italian side on an emotional day for Irish rugby.

The visitors had given Ireland an early scare with an excellent try by wing Leonardo Sarto, converted by Luciano Orquera, but were unable to spoil the Irish party.

O'Driscoll was phenomenal in his final home game, and gave Irish fans a reminder of the sublime skill they'll miss next season. But his team-mates deserve immense credit for giving the icon the Dublin send off he deserves.

Ireland made the livelier start, holding onto the ball through several phases. The host showed an admirable intent to move the ball early on.

The hosts dominated possession in the opening five minutes, but the Azzurri defence was pretty resolute. The man of the moment ignited proceedings on six minutes when a lovely wrap around from O'Driscoll to Sexton carved open the Italian defence for the Irish fly-half to touch down. Sexton converted to make it 7-0.

The visitors responded well, though, with Orquera orchestrating some good handling in midfield. The men in blue were finding some holes in Ireland's much vaunted defence. Tito Tebaldi was also finding some space for his outside backs from the scrum-half channel.

The hosts regrouped, however, and gained some continuity in their opponents' half, but were undone by basic errors. Ireland's cause was also not helped when Conor Murray was forced to exit the field on 16 minutes.

There was a feeling that Ireland were the superior side, but they just couldn't break down the tenacious visitors. And the Azzurri got a thoroughly deserved reward on 24 minutes when Sarto scored a well-taken try having evaded Rob Kearney's desperate covering tackle. Oquera converted to equalise the score at 7-7.

But Sexton restored Ireland's lead on 31 minutes to settle his side's nerves. It was the least the hosts deserved following a period of concerted pressure. But again Luke McLean was finding unexpected holes in Ireland's defensive line.

It was their great centre that initiated Ireland's breakthrough on 36 minutes when a superb pass put Trimble away in the corner. Sexton duly added the extras to make it 17-7 to the Emerald Isle.

Although the game had become quite unstructured at times, by half time Ireland were starting to achieve some ascendancy over their stubborn opponents.

The second half began with Ireland clearly determined to break the shackles. A fracas on 47 minutes involving captains Paul O'Connell and Marco Bortolami demonstrated the way in which the physicality on display from both sides was always threatening to spill over. In the first five minutes of the half, the hosts were essentially camped in the Italian half.

And prop Healy deservedly got over the whitewash for the men in green on 52 minutes when Eoin Reddan tapped and went from a five-metre penalty. Once the ball went to ground, Healy picked up, and crashed over the line. It was to be the loosehead's final act of the match. Sexton missed the conversion, however.

The game began to loosen up thereafter, with Ireland's backs finding some welcome space. The brilliant O'Driscoll was undoubtedly at the centre of everything his team did well, and it was his pass that fed Rob Kearney, who in turn put Sexton over for his second try on 59 minutes. The Irish ten missed another conversion to leave it 27-7.

The ovation was completely deafening when O'Driscoll left the field on 62 minutes, his job having been superbly done. Substitute hooker Sean Cronin added to the home tally on 68 minutes when he barged over in the left hand corner. Replacement Paddy Jackson converted to make it 34-7.

Italy tried to regain a foothold in the game, but lacked the incision to threaten the Irish defence.

Fergus McFadden got in on the act on 77 minutes, when he sliced through the Azzurri midfield to score with adding the extras.

And an evocative occasion was rounded off appropriately, when replacement prop Jack McGrath crashed off for his first try for his country to complete the rout.

Following a resonant day for Irish sport, Ireland and O'Driscoll head to Paris for a tilt at the championship. On this form, anything is possible.

Man of the Match: Who else? His former Leinster teammate Sexton pushed him close, but Brian O'Driscoll was simply outstanding on his final Irish outing at the Aviva Stadium. His passing was sublime, while the centre's work-rate was the equal of anyone else on the pitch. Brilliant performance.

Moment of the Match: O'Driscoll's lovely switch with Sexton to set up the fly-half's opening try exemplifies everything that defines the great centre's brilliance. It could have been a score from ten years ago, as O'Driscoll's creativity and intelligence unlocked a Six Nations defence.

Villain of the Match: No villains as both sides gave their all in a compelling contest.

The scorers:

For Ireland:
Tries:Sexton 2, Trimble, Healy, Cronin, McFadden, McGrath
Cons: Sexton 2, Jackson 2
Pen: Sexton,

For Italy:
Try: Sarto
Con: Orquera

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Iain Henderson, 5 Paul O'Connell (c), 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Martin Moore, 19 Rhys Ruddock, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Paddy Jackson, 23 Fergus McFadden.

Italy: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Leonardo Sarto, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Paul Derbyshire, 6 Joshua Furno, 5 Marco Bortolami (c), 4 Quentin Geldenhuys, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Alberto de Marchi.
Replacements: 16 David Giazzon, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Lorenzo Cittadini, 19 Antonio Pavanello, 20 Manoa Vosawai, 21 Edoardo Gori, 22 Tommaso Allan, 23 Andrea Masi.

Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gauzère (France), Greg Garner (England)
Television match official: Geoff Warren (England)
Assessor: Andrew Cole (Australia)

By Rory McGimpsey
@RoryMcGimpsey

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 19
Gloucester vs Exeter19:45
Saturday , September 20
Sale vs London Welsh14:00
London Irish vs Saracens15:00
Harlequins vs Wasps15:00
Bath vs Leicester15:15
Sunday , September 21
Newcastle vs Northampton14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 19
Munster vs Zebre19:30
Cardiff Blues vs Ulster19:35
Connacht vs Leinster19:35
Saturday , September 20
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Glasgow14:40
Scarlets vs Benetton Treviso18:00
Sunday , September 21
Ospreys vs Edinburgh16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , September 19
Brive vs Toulon18:00
Saturday , September 20
Racing Metro Paris vs Toulouse18:00
La Rochelle vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Clermont Auvergne vs Lyon18:00
Castres vs Oyonnax18:00
Grenoble vs Bayonne18:00
Montpellier vs Stade Francais18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 19
Lions vs Pumas19:10
Saturday , September 20
Western Province vs Griquas15:00
Blue Bulls vs Sharks17:05
Eastern Province Kings vs Cheetahs19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Thursday , September 18
Northland vs TaranakiNorthland vs Taranaki Preview
Friday , September 19
Counties Manukau vs CanterburyCounties Manukau vs Canterbury Preview
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
Wednesday, September 17
Southland 14 - 38 TasmanSouthland vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 14
Wasps 20 - 16 NorthamptonWasps vs Northampton Report
Newcastle 18 - 20 London IrishNewcastle vs London Irish Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Cardiff Blues 12 - 33 GlasgowCardiff Blues vs Glasgow Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Bordeaux-Begles 27 - 21 MontpellierBordeaux-Begles vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
ITM Cup
Waikato 26 - 21 Counties ManukauWaikato vs Counties Manukau Report
Hawkes Bay 41 - 0 Otago
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 13
Gloucester 34 - 27 Sale SharksGloucester vs Sale Sharks Report
Bath 53 - 26 London WelshBath vs London Welsh Report
Exeter 20 - 24 LeicesterExeter vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Rugby Championship
New Zealand 14 - 10 South AfricaNew Zealand vs South Africa Report
Australia 32 - 25 ArgentinaAustralia vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Guinness PRO12
Leinster 42 - 12 ScarletsLeinster vs Scarlets Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Toulouse 9 - 13 Clermont AuvergneToulouse vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Bayonne 23 - 6 Brive
Oyonnax 40 - 27 Grenoble
Racing Metro Paris 28 - 11 LyonRacing Metro Paris vs Lyon Report
Toulon 24 - 28 Stade FrancaisToulon vs Stade Francais Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Griquas 31 - 27 PumasGriquas vs Pumas Report
Lions 35 - 33 Western ProvinceLions vs Western Province Report
Cheetahs 30 - 30 SharksCheetahs vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Bay Of Plenty 12 - 27 AucklandBay Of Plenty vs Auckland Report
Southland 36 - 34 Northland
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 12
Harlequins 0 - 39 SaracensHarlequins vs Saracens Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Benetton Treviso 10 - 21 MunsterBenetton Treviso vs Munster Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens29
2Bath29
3Leicester Tigers29
4Exeter26
5Northampton26