RBS 6 Nations
England 36-15 Italy
England remain on course for back-to-back Six Nations grand slams but the celebrations will be muted after they produced their worst performance under Eddie Jones and needed a late surge to secure a 36-15 victory over Italy.
England were all over the place in an error-strewn first half and though Dan Cole bundled over the line in a rare attack to put them 5-0 up they were lucky to reach the break 10-5 down after Giovanbattista Venditti scored a try for Italy after an earlier Tommaso Allan drop goal.
England came out firing with quickfire tries for Danny Care and Elliot Daly but Michele Campagnaro blasted through some lightweight defending to get Italy back within two points.
It proved a false dawn, however, as Jack Nowell crossed for the fourth, bonus-point try, followed soon afterwards with a fifth for Ben Teo, with Nowell finishing things off with his second in the last minute.
England top the standings on 13 points after three wins. Ireland, who beat France on Saturday, are second on 10 points with Scotland third on nine following their home win over Wales, who are fourth on five points.
Lock Joe Launchbury told ITV: “It was a very frustrating first half. Obviously Italy came with a plan around the break down and it took us quite a long time to work that out.
“Obviously pleased with the result but, as always, lots to work on.
“I think we knew the challenge ahead today. I think we knew Italy would come very passionate and fired up and they certainly didn’t disappoint in that area.
“We let ourselves down in a couple of areas so we’ll have a good look over the next couple of weeks and come out firing in a couple of weeks.
“It’s a win and it’s a tough competition so we’re delighted with that.
“The benefit is that we’ve got two weeks now to address the issues and look forward to a really big game (against Scotland).”
Italy coach Conor O’Shea was pleased with his side’s display and believes they should be taken more seriously in the competition.
The Italians remain bottom of the table following three successive defeats.
“We have a massive job to do but we will do it and we have to think differently like we did today,” he said.
“We didn’t come here to make up numbers.
“But you’re playing against a brilliant team who are on-form and they worked their way through it.
“We thought we might come away with a bonus point but we’re here not to be plucky losers.
“We’re learning at the highest level and hopefully we’ve earned a little bit of respect here today.”