Sunday, March 3, 2024

Clinical Ireland nil Italy as perfect start to Six Nations title defence continues

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Ireland made light work of Italy in their second game of this year’s Six Nations as they cruised to a dominant 36-0 six-try victory at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Sunday.

After their outstanding performance against France in Marseille last Friday, the Irish were looking to make it two wins from two and completed another maximum haul.

Tries from Jack Crowley, Dan Sheehan (2), Jack Conan, James Lowe and Calvin Nash saw Andy Farrell’s men go into the Six Nations fallow week with 10 points on the table.

For Italy is was a hugely disappointing day at the office as they could not land a blow on reigning champions Ireland, with this their second successive loss in the tournament.

Click here for scorers

Ireland’s display could certainly have been more ruthless but it was more than enough to beat the perennial wooden spoon winners and secure a 17th successive home win.

Farrell’s men remain on course to become the first side to win back-to-back Six Nations Grand Slams ahead of hosting Wales on February 24 and March appointments with England and Scotland.

Italy arrived at a sold-out Aviva Stadium as overwhelming underdogs and seeking a first championship success on Irish soil on the back of a positive performance in a three-point defeat to England.

Paolo Garbisi shanked an early penalty to give the Azzurri the lead, before Ireland scrum-half Craig Casey released provincial team-mate Crowley to gleefully register a landmark five points.

The seventh-minute score initially did little to settle the hosts amid a subdued Sunday afternoon atmosphere, which faded fast from eight-year-old Stevie Mulrooney performing a rousing rendition of Ireland’s Call.

Farrell’s starting XV, showing six personnel changes from Marseille, initially looked disjointed as the contest descended into a scrappy affair.

Energetic bursts from Hugo Keenan momentarily lifted the crowd and led to a second score in the 24th minute, with Crowley, Stuart McCloskey and Robbie Henshaw ultimately combining to tee up Sheehan.

Blasts of Zombie by the Cranberries – the team’s World Cup anthem – greeted each Ireland try and rang out again three minutes before the break when Conan bulldozed across the line after Joe McCarthy was held up.

Ireland had the bonus point in the bag within five minutes of the restart as hooker Sheehan, who also crossed against Les Bleus, claimed his second try of the afternoon.

Centre Henshaw was perhaps harshly denied a score due to an adjudged double movement before grounding.

But Ireland, who saw full-back Keenan limp off with an apparent leg issue, would not be denied for long.

Impressive Leinster wing Lowe added further gloss to the scoreboard with a powerful 62nd-minute finish, shortly after Italy centre Tommaso Menoncello was sent to the sin bin for illegally stopping him by sticking out a leg.

Following Garbisi’s wayward penalty, outclassed Italy offered little attacking threat and rarely entered the hosts’ 22.

Another fruitless trip to the Irish capital was compounded two minutes from time when Munster wing Nash collected Jamison Gibson-Park’s pass to score for the second week in a row, with replacement 10 Harry Byrne slotting the extras to add to two Crowley conversions.

The teams

Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 James Lowe, 10 Jack Crowley, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Caelan Doris (c), 6 Ryan Baird, 5 James Ryan, 4 Joe McCarthy, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Andrew Porter
Replacements: 16 Rónan Kelleher, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Harry Byrne, 23 Jordan Larmour

Italy: 15 Ange Capuozzo, 14 Lorenzo Pani, 13 Juan Ignacio Brex, 12 Tommaso Menoncello, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Stephen Varney, 8 Michele Lamaro (c), 7 Manuel Zuliani, 6 Alessandro Izekor, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Niccolò Cannone, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 2 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 1 Danilo Fischetti
Replacements: 16 Giacomo Nicotera, 17 Mirco Spagnolo, 18 Giosuè Zilocchi, Andrea Zambonin, 20 Ross Vintcent, 21 Martin Page-Relo, 22 Tommaso Allan, 23 Federico Mori

Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant Referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Luc Ramos (France)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)

READ MORE: Ireland player ratings: Front-row demolition allows the backs to cut the Azzurri open

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