England produced a stuttering display in their 36-11 win over Italy at Twickenham.
This is still the same poor England side who were beaten convincingly by the Springboks and none of the players put their hands up for Lions selection.
However, the Italians gifted them three tries in the opening half hour.
Nick Mallett’s experiment of using Stade Francais flanker Mauro Bergamasco at scrumhalf was a dismal failure. Any Italian attack was thwarted by his slow service, his lack of a decent boot was a weakness, while his absence at the back of two rucks led to the first couple of tries. The third English try to Riki Flutey was directly from a wayward Bergamasco pass.
Bergamasco was finally subbed at half-time, but by then Italy were down 22-6 and the 16-point deficit was too much to pull back. Italy dominated possession in the opening half, but couldn’t do much with it, while this trend continued in the second.
England did not look capable of constructing any tries without the help of an Italian error, it was only in the 78th minute when wing Mark Cueto scored due to decent English play. The only reason their defence conceded the solitary try was due to the lack of momentum from the Bergamsaco fiasco in the first half.
Much was written about the return of Andy Goode to the flyhalf position and he got the best possible start as he scored in the second minute. It was self-inflicted from the Italians as two earlier mistakes gave the opportunity to Goode, who grubbered and dived over the whitewash.
From the fairy-tale beginning Goode’s performance was far from spectacular as he missed two penalties, knocked on elementary passes, and lacked authority in his general play.
Martin Johnson shouldn’t be fooled by the scoreline and the English will need to improve greatly when they take on Six Nations champions Wales in Cardiff next Saturday.
England – Tries: Andy Goode, Harry Ellis (2), Riki Flutey, Mark Cueto. Conversions: Goode (4). Penalty: Goode.
Italy -Try: Mirco Bergamasco. Penalties: Luke McLean (2).
By Grant Ball