Ashton tortures Azzurri

SIMON BORCHARDT reports on England’s 59-13 thrashing of Italy that resulted in four tries for winger Chris Ashton.

After coming so close to beating Ireland last week, the Italians were expected to challenge Martin Johnson’s side at Twickenham, as they did in Rome last year. However, after a competitive first quarter, the visitors were taken apart and the margin of victory could have been even greater had England not emptied their bench in the second half.

The hosts opened the scoring in the third minute when Ben Youngs put Toby Flood into space. The flyhalf drew Italy fullback Luke McLean and found Ashton, who sprinted 20m before swallow-diving under the posts.

Two penalties from Mirco Bergamasco and one from Flood saw England leading just 10-6 after 20 minutes, before the Italian left wing pushed his third attempt wide of the right-hand upright.

Fifteen minutes later, Italy were dead and buried. Ashton scored his second try after Shontayne Hape bounced off a defender close to the line, and an inside pass from Flood allowed Mark Cueto to break his 19-Test try-scoring drought. An excellent hand-off and one-handed offload from Nick Easter then put Mike Tindall away to make it 31-6 at the break.

Things went from bad to worse for Italy when Martin Castrogiovanni was yellow carded early in the second half when he prevented Youngs from taking a quick tap penalty. The visitors’ defence did well over the next few minutes, but just when it looked as if they wouldn’t concede any points while their tighthead prop was off, Ashton went over for his hat-trick. With Italy back to 15 men, replacement scrumhalf Danny Care then dived over to make it 45-6.

The visitors restored some pride when substitute hooker Fabio Ongaro scored from a driving maul, but tries from James Haskell and Ashton completed the rout.

England will go into their next match, against France at Twickenham in two weeks’ time, full of confidence, while Nick Mallett will be hoping to get Italy’s season back on track against Wales in Rome.

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