RBS 6 Nations
Italy 10-63 Ireland
CJ Stander and Craig Gilroy both scored hat-tricks as Ireland claimed a record Six Nations victory against Italy with a 63-10 thumping in Rome. Ireland set their Six Nations campaign back on track in comfortable style after the 27-22 defeat in Scotland last week, with Keith Earls claiming a brace and Garry Ringrose also crossing. Rob Kearney trudged off late on with a suspected biceps injury but that was the sole concern for Joe Schmidt, the visitors’ head coach.
Ireland shrugged off the late loss of their captain, Rory Best, to a stomach bug before kick-off, to nail their maiden Six Nations try bonus point in just 34 minutes. Conor O’Shea, the hosts’ Irish head coach, had vowed during the week that this was not the “same old Italy”, but Ireland sadly exposed far too many basic flaws in his underpowered team.
Stander became the first forward to score a Six Nations hat-trick as Ireland exposed Italy’s soft underbelly straight from the off. Simon Zebo should have scored despite waiting an age for Ireland to feed him on the left touchline. The Munster wing dropped the ball when spinning over the whitewash.
Earls had no such qualms on the right flank, easing home thanks to Henshaw’s tight line and Jackson’s wide pass, with Zebo offering a neat decoy line.
Carlo Canna’s penalty proved scant respite for the hosts, with Stander quickly on the scoresheet. Jamie Heaslip’s cute offload in the 13 channel teed up a fine break for Cian Healy, and Zebo’s flat cut-pass sent Stander in at the corner.
The move of the half laid on Ireland’s third score, Jackson and Henshaw switching around a scrum to set Zebo loose on the blind-side flank. Several tight phases later, Earls cantered in all too easily out wide.
Jackson’s conversion pushed Ireland into a 21-3 lead, only for the hosts to force a penalty try. Donnacha Ryan was sent to the sin-bin for sacking the second of two fine Italian lineout drives, and the referee, Glen Jackson, had little hesitation awarding the penalty score.
Canna converted to cut Ireland’s lead to 21-10, but not for long. Italy were pinged for blocking at the kick-off, and despite missing a man Ireland wrapped up the bonus-point score. Schmidt’s men kept it tight from the penalty lineout, with Stander eventually blasting his way home.
Italy forced the issue at the death of the half, only for Luke McLean to kick away cheaply in Ireland’s 22 – then concede a turnover penalty when the hosts pressed again.
Ireland led 28-10 at the break and then negotiated the end of Ryan’s sin-bin without setback. The visitors in fact emerged seven points in credit from that 10-minute period with 14 men.
Stander then completed his 45-minute hat-trick by cutting a fine blind-side line off Murray around the ruck. Ireland’s scrum-half delayed the pass long enough to split the defence.
Ireland’s dominance was such that Schmidt could bring off the powerful centre Henshaw as a precaution with more than a quarter of the match to play.
The Ulster flyer Gilroy stepped his way to a smart score, before Ringrose scythed home.
Gilroy then added a sickening second as Stander’s clearance hoof bamboozled Maxime Mbanda, and the Ulster wing cantered home all too easily.
When Gilroy raced in for his third from Jackson’s wide pass, Ireland’s cakewalk was complete.