Ireland were given an almighty scare by Italy on Sunday, before registering a hard-earned 26-16 victory in their Six Nations Test in Rome.
Despite heading into this match on a 19-game losing streak in the tournament, Italy were competitive throughout and even held a 16-12 lead at half-time after a superb showing during the opening stanza.
In the end, Ireland fought back bravely in the second-half and eventually secured a crucial bonus point after outscoring their hosts by four tries to two.
As expected, Ireland were fastest out of the blocks but despite having most of the possession in the game’s early stages, they committed several unforced errors during that period.
They eventually settled down and took the lead in the 11th minute when Quinn Roux barged over from close quarters for their opening try after Chris Farrell was stopped short of the try-line in the build-up.
Johnny Sexton slotted the conversion but five minutes later Tommaso Allan lined up a long-range kick at goal and although he had the distance, he pushed his shot wide of the posts.
Soon after, Sean O’Brien was blown up for illegal play on defence and Allan made up for his earlier miss by converting the resulting penalty, which meant the visitors were leading 7-3 midway through the half.
The Azzurri forwards failed to claim the ball from the restart and in attempt to regather, Michele Campagnaro knocked on. Jacob Stockdale pounced on the loose ball before racing away from the cover defence to score his side’s second try.
Despite that setback, Italy were soon on the attack inside Ireland’s half and the hosts reduced the deficit via another penalty from Allan in the 26th minute after Sean Cronin strayed offside on defence.
The game’s momentum swung in the 33rd minute when Ireland lost possession at a line-out inside their half and after a good run from Jayden Hayward, Italy were camped close to the visitors’ try-line. The ball was recycled quickly and Allan did well to deliver a superb long throw to Edoardo Padovani, who had an easy run-in for his side’s opening try.
Although Allan failed with the conversion attempt, Italy finished stronger and in the 39th minute they took the lead courtesy of an excellent try from Luca Morisi.
Tito Tebaldi deserves plenty of credit for his role in the score as he did brilliantly to win a turnover inside his half before setting off towards his opponents’ try-line. Tebaldi then booted the ball upfield and Italy did well to regather deep inside Ireland’s 22 where Padovani was stopped close to the right-hand corner. Italy then shifted the ball to the left where Luca Morisi powered his way over the whitewash despite the attentions of Farrell.
Allan was off target from the kicking tee again but the Azzurri were buzzing as the teams changed sides at half-time.
Ireland seemed shell-shocked and the interval came at just the right time for them. They regathered their composure and regained the lead in the 51st minute when Keith Earls stepped past a couple of defenders inside Italy’s 22 before diving over.
The next 15 minutes was a slugfest and although Ireland had most of the possession and territory, they could not breach their opponents’ defence. But, despite being frustrated during that period, Ireland remained patient and they were rewarded in the 67th minute when Conor Murray scored their bonus-point try, off the back of a line-out drive deep inside Italy’s territory.
Despite securing their bonus point, Ireland could not rest on their laurels as Italy continued to attack. The closing stages were frantic and Italy had a chance to gain a losing bonus point when Ian McKinley lined up a shot at goal. His effort was off target, however, and although Ireland tried to attack from behind their posts, they soon committed a handling error which brought proceedings to a close.
Tries: Padovani, Morisi
Pens: Allan 2
Tries: Roux, Stockdale, Earls, Murray
Cons: Sexton, Murray 2
|February 24, 2019||16:50||Guinness Six Nations||Guinness Six Nations 2019||80'|
|Team||Losing Bonus Point||Penalty||Tries||Conversions||4 TRY BP||Points||Outcome|