An impressive second half performance helped Ireland to a convincing 42-10 victory over Italy at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.
Tommy Bowe scored two tries, with Keith Earls, Tom Court and Andrew Trimble also getting over the Italian try-line. Jonathan Sexton had an impressive day from placekicks, only missing a last minute conversion attempt. Italy, meanwhile, played well in the first half and were rewarded for their efforts with a Sergio Parisse try.
Ireland failed to impress in the early stages of the match and Italy could have taken a decent foothold in the match were it not for Tobias Botes’ poor placekicking. The out-half had two penalties in the first ten minutes, with Botes kicking one wide and the other just over the crossbar.
Sexton equalised for Ireland within three minutes, however. The fly-half looked to be leaving the field with a blood injury, but Sexton stayed on and scored with a good effort from distance.
Ireland took control of the match in the following period and were camped five yards from the Italian line for several minutes. After a period of heavy pressure, Sexton almost got over the Italian try-line. Scrum-half Conor Murray then passed to Earls, who scored in the corner. Sexton added the conversion from a difficult angle to give Ireland a seven point lead.
Ireland failed to build on their lead, however, and Italy enjoyed long periods of possession. Unfortunately for the Azzurri, Botes’ poor kicking day continued. The out-half missed with a drop goal attempt and another penalty hit the crossbar. Rob Kearney responded quickest and claimed the ball before an incoming Italian player.
Italy wasted an opportunity around the half hour mark when a poor pass was intercepted by Gordon D’Arcy ten metres from the Irish line.
Five minutes later Rob Kearney and Jonathan Sexton combined to gift Italy another half-chance. Kearney’s pass to Sexton was misjudged and the ball dropped to an Italian player. Sexton managed to recover and tackle the Italian metres from the Irish line, however.
Italy deservedly equalised in the 35th minute as captain Sergio Parisse scored a try for the Azzurri. The Italians won a line-out ten yards from the Irish line and Botes made a good pass to a teammate, who was stopped metres short of the try-line. The ball was recycled and several players were left unmarked on the left side of the pitch. The ball was passed to Parisse, who had the easy task of touching down for an Italian try.
Ireland responded well to score a late first half try. Sexton turned down a chance to shoot for the posts and instead kicked to touch. Ireland won the lineout and the ball was worked to the left wing, where Bowe almost got over the try line. Ireland worked the ball back to the right, with Rob Kearney finding Stephen Ferris with a long pass. The back-row slipped the ball to Bowe, who ran over uncontested for Ireland’s second try. Sexton added the conversion to give Ireland a 17-10 half-time lead.
Ireland were much improved in the second half and extended their lead through a routine 49th minute Sexton penalty. It was the introduction of Eoin Reddan in the 54th minute that changed the match, however. The scrum-half added speed to the Irish attack at the breakdown and increased their attacking intensity.
Minutes later some great running from Kearney led to Italy conceding a penalty for not rolling away. Sexton scored the penalty to give Ireland a 13 point lead.
The match was finished as a contest after Bowe scored his second try of the match in the 61st minute. Ireland were camped inside the Italian 22 and Peter O’Mahony and Stephen Ferris almost got over the try line for Ireland. The ball was recycled and Sexton played an accurate, long pass to Bowe on the right wing. The Ulsterman was left unmarked again and easily scored Ireland third try.
Ireland emptied their bench in the closing period as they tried to push home their advantage and seal a comprehensive victory.
After a period of pressure where Peter O’Mahony and Donnacha Ryan almost scored, Tom Court scored his first international try for Ireland in the 77th minute. Trimble then broke free in the final minute and ran over half the field before scoring in the corner.
The victory will be a great boost to Ireland before they travel to Paris next week. Although the first half performance was unimpressive, Declan Kidney’s men improved significantly in the second period and secured a convincing victory.