|Italy: (10) 10|
|Try: Meyer Con: Garbisi Pen: Garbisi|
|Ireland: (27) 48|
|Tries: Ringrose, Keenan, Connors 2, Stander, Earls Cons: Sexton 6 Pens: Sexton 2|
Ireland ran in six tries to claim their first win of this year’s Six Nations in a one-sided contest against a poor Italy in Rome.
Garry Ringrose, Hugo Keenan and Will Connors scored to open up a first-half lead for a much-improved Irish before Johan Meyer replied for the hosts.
CJ Stander, Connors and Keith Earls added further tries after the break as Ireland strolled to a win.
For Italy, it is a 30th consecutive Six Nations defeat.
The Azzurri have conceded 139 points in their opening three matches and despite flashes of attacking flair, it is their porous defence that continues to fail them in a winless run in the tournament that stretches back to 2013.
A comfortable win with a clear and accurate attacking identity was what was required from Ireland following consecutive opening defeats, and that is what was delivered as they produced an accomplished performance that will provide grounds for optimism as they approach a meeting with Scotland at Murrayfield in two weeks.
Italian defence aids improved Irish attack
As they arrived in Rome the microscope was firmly on Ireland’s attack, which had yielded just two tries so far in the tournament.
Against Wales and France, their lack of cutting edge let them down as they failed to capitalise on decent territory – as a result most Irish fans and pundits had called for a more dynamic and ruthless attacking display against Italy.
That is what they got. Aided by a desperate Italian defence Ireland created attacking platforms and continually got beyond the gainline.
Ringrose’s score came two minutes after Iain Henderson had bizarrely been adjudged to have knocked on beyond the line despite replays showing a clear grounding. However Ireland soon were on the board as Jamison Gibson-Park sent the ball out to the backs, where Ringrose collected and straightened up to dart through two defenders.
Italy, who lost starting scrum-half Stephen Varney to an injury in the warm-up, could not get out of their own way as their penalty count invited more pressure.
Keenan and Connors, both of whom scored against Italy on their international debuts last October, again found the tryline just five minutes apart through similar moves as Ireland won an attacking line-out and quickly shifted the ball right across the pitch to open up space the the Italian defence could not cover.
A satisfactory and refreshing half for Ireland was blemished in the final act when multiple penalties gave Italy the chance to drive forward and claw back seven points as Paolo Garbisi jinked between two forwards and freed his hands enough to send Meyer over the line.
Connors makes Scotland selection case
Having made seven changes from the side that lost to France, head coach Andy Farrell will have some tough decisions to make for the trip to Edinburgh with several players making strong cases to retain their starting number.
Connors and fellow flanker Tadhg Beirne were among those to contribute handsomely as Ireland continued to show impressive variety in their play to maintain the upper hand throughout.
A Stander pick-and-go increased the lead before referee Mathieu Raynal lost patience with consistent Italian indiscipline, sending prop Giosue Ziocchi to the bin for deliberately slowing the ball with Ireland bearing down on the line once again.
Lock Ryan Baird and Craig Casey were introduced for their senior debuts, with Munster scrum-half Casey in particular offering an exciting glimpse of what he may bring to the green shirt in the coming years, bringing the tempo up a gear with the result long beyond doubt.
Both Stander and wing James Lowe had tries disallowed with Ireland looking to push their points beyond 50, as Connors brought them closer when he touched down from a rolling maul.
The final act of the game saw Earls, a half-time replacement for Jordan Larmour who was removed as a precaution, collected Johnny Sexton’s flat pass to cross in the corner.
Man of the Match
Italy: Trulla; Sperandio, Brex, Canna, Ioane; Garbisi, Braley; Lovitto, Bigi (capt), Riccioni; Lazzaroni, Sisi; Negri, Meyer, Lamaro
Replacements: Lucchesi, Traore, Zilocchi, Cannone, Mbanda, Palazzani, Mori, Bellini
Ireland: Keenan; Larmour, Ringrose, Henshaw, Lowe; Sexton, Gibson-Park; Kilcoyne, Kelleher, Furlong; Henderson, Ryan (capt); Beirne, Connors, Stander.
Replacements: Herring, Healy, Porter, Baird, Conan, Casey, Burns, Earls.