A brace from wing Luke Fitzgerald handed Ireland a comfortable 38-9 win over Italy in Rome.
Two Irish tries in the final five minutes inflated the scoreline but for the second week in a row Italy made too many errors at this level.
This was a brutal game riddled with off-the-ball incidents and once again the Italians only have themselves to blame for the loss. The Irish weren’t at their best but they capitalised on any errors, with No 8 Jamie Heaslip doing his Lions credentials no harm.
Italian fullback Andrea Masi was yellow-carded in the first minute of the game for a high tackle and this clearly showed the intentions of the Italians, who looked to physically intimidate.
Italy played with the wind during this period with 14 men and they actually outscored the Irish via a Luke McLean penalty. The Italian flyhalf added another but despite Italy dominating the opening quarter it wasn’t reflected on the scoreboard as Ireland wing Tommy Bowe pounced on a loose pass to run 70m to the try-line.
McLean added a third penalty but crucially Italian indiscipline cost them once more. Ronan O’Gara was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul but straight after Italian prop Salvatore Perugini suffered the same fate for a cynical infringement.
The Irish then produced their best period of play just before half-time as Fitzgerald finished off a move that consisted of 19 phases. This handed the visitors a 14-9 lead at the break.
By the second stanza the visitors had complete control of territory and possession with flank David Wallace securing the result five minutes in after he barged through two defenders.
The game fell into another lull but in the final five minutes Fitzgerald claimed his second and Brian O’Driscoll intercepted to complete the hiding.
Both teams have a two-week break with Ireland hosting England and Italy heading to Murrayfield to face Scotland.
By Grant Ball