Joseph thrills in Italy hammering

Date published: February 14 2015

Jonathan Joseph stole the show with two tries as England dispatched Italy 47-17 at Twickenham in the Six Nations.

The 23-year-old Bath centre scored two of England's six tries in a slow-burning but eventually comfortable victory for Stuart Lancaster's side.

England started poorly, just as they have in other recent matches, but were more or less rampant after the break, a couple of inspired pieces of skill from Italy's backs, Luca Morisi in particular, the only exceptions to the one-way traffic. 

Two years ago in this same fixture England spluttered their way to an unconvincing victory, but this was more akin to last year's rout in Rome. The ending felt familiar.

No pre-match disco was required a week on from England's assault on Cardiff but they were expected to entertain, going from underdogs to favourites against an Azzurri side with four centurions in their pack.

Any Italian victory would hinge on their set-piece, but the early darts from Leicester's Leonardo Ghiraldini were wayward with England stealing two early lineouts.

Morisi's running was far more effective. The outside centre cut down the near touchline, fending off three tacklers and putting his team firmly on the attack. Good patience and handling freed up Sergio Parisse for the Italy captain to fool the defence and go over to send Twickenham silent. Far from the expected start, but a brilliant one for the visitors.

Kelly Haimona's bright opening was reflected in the way his side played with real confidence, dominating the opening exchanges and starving England of possession and territory.

A smart chip over the top from Haimona forced Mike Brown into action sweeping behind to try to stop Andrea Masi, but he paid a heavy price, colliding nastily with the Italian's shoulder. With the fallout from George North's concussion still fresh on the mind every care was taken to ensure Brown's well-being during a lengthy stoppage in play. He was stretchered off and replaced by Billy Twelvetrees, with England moving Anthony Watson to full-back and Jonathan Joseph onto the wing.

Brown's injury, while of major concern, did give England a chance to restart after a dire opening. Their scrum was monstrous and their attack showed patience, ending eventually with some first points for Ford from a penalty.

Only some sharp cover defence from Parisse stopped Edoardi Gori from being trampled by Billy Vunipola as he charged for the line, with the England number eight looking to finish off a sweep around from the maul. Or so it initially seemed, with the TMO on closer inspection adjudging that Vunipola was both not in touch and had also scored. England as a result took an 8-5 lead.

Rightly, England fans might have been concerned about Joseph being shunted out to the wing after his dazzling display against Wales in midfield, but they needn't have worried. The Bath back produced a superb solo try, receiving the ball out wide and accelerating through two tacklers before outrunning the cover defence having sold them with a dummy. It was truly a special score.

Haimona missed two penalties and the opportunity to narrow England's lead which the hosts should have extended, Jonny May carelessly squandering a three-on-one trying to go himself for the corner and consequently losing possession. Italy clung on near their own line to close out the half, England's rolling maul failing them from close range as they went in 15-5 ahead.

Italy were struggling to handle Vunipola, the young number eight making four carries in just one passage of play as England started the second half much quicker than their sluggish opening.

Ford added a second penalty but England were a little rash in their eagerness to put Italy away, opting for miracle plays rather than patient build-up.

The Azzurri benefited, the excellent Morisi finishing off an attack that all started with Leonardo Sarto's chip and chase. The giant winger recovered possession and with the ball spread to the left, Morisi straightened and had enough strength to withstand Watson's last-ditch tackle to score. What might have been had Italy still been able to call upon a kicker with the quality of Diego Dominguez. Again Haimona was off-target with the conversion, making it ten points missed with the boot.

Quick thinking from Ben Youngs held off any English jitters for the time being, as the scrum-half darted over from a tap penalty after more dominance in the scrum. Such a soft score for Italy to concede and one that did little to alter Jacques Brunel's normal pessimistic expression.

A third penalty from Ford put England 28-10 ahead as the replacements arrived, but Joseph remained the star – although he was brilliantly assisted by club-mate Ford whose delay and pass to set up Joseph's second try was sublime.

It was to be his last act, Danny Cipriani coming on to make a first appearance at Twickenham for six and a half years, but typically scoring a try within less than a minute. The replacement surged up on the shoulder of May after the winger sucked in defenders to sprint his way over for England's fifth try.

Nick Easter got in on the act by finishing off a powerful rolling maul to become the oldest try scorer in Six Nations history at 36 as Morisi added his second try, capping off a great afternoon at Twickenham for the Treviso youngster.

England though had the match won long ago, with the bonus of seeing Mike Brown up and about on the sidelines garnering a loud cheer from the crowd. On goes the chariot.

Man of the Match: Strong performances from Billy Vunipola and Joe Marler, but Jonathan Joseph takes the gong with his two tries and constant threat from 13.

Moment of the Match: The quick tap from Ben Youngs. Italy were just too slow, half distracted by the referee's ongoing explanation, and from 25-10 the game was decided.

Villain of the Match: Nothing nasty to report.

The scorers:

For England:
Tries: B Vunipola, Joseph 2, B Youngs, Cipriani, Easter
Cons: Ford 3, Cipriani
Pens: Ford 3

For Italy:

Tries: Parisse, Morisi 2
Con: Allan

England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 James Haskell, 5 George Kruis, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Nick Easter, 20 Tom Croft, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Danny Cipriani, 23 Billy Twelvetrees.

Italy: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Andrea Masi, 11 Giovambattista Venditti, 10 Kelly Haimona, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Francesco Minto, 6 Mauro Bergamasco, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 George Fabio Biagi, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Alberto De Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Andrea Manici, 17 Matias Aguero, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Joshua Furno, 20 Samuela Vunisa, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Tommaso Allan, 23 Giulio Bisegni.

Date: Saturday, February 14
Kickoff: 14:30 GMT
Venue: Twickenham
Referee: Johnny Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Pascal Gauzère (France), Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

by Ben Coles