Ireland scored five tries in their 42-10 win over Italy in Dublin.
The scoreline suggests a convincing showing, but Ireland will be disappointed with their poor overall performance, especially considering they played in their own backyard. Despite creating several try-scoring opportunities early on, they only managed to grab three of their tries in the final quarter when the Italian defence folded. Their general attacking play was static on regular occasions as they committed numerous unforced errors. The absence of sick forwards coach Gert Smal also seemed to be a setback as their lineout and scrum displays were a concern.
Italy can only blame themselves for not scoring any more points. They created a couple of counter attacks in the first half, but a lack of composure allowed the Irish cover defence to restrict the visitors. South African-born flyhalf Tobias Botes had a poor outing with the boot, as he missed three out of four penalty shots and skewed an easy drop goal attempt.
The opening half hour was tight contest, as the scoreboard read 10-10. Ireland gained the early lead with a try through outside centre Keith Earls while flyhalf Jonny Sexton added the conversion and a penalty. The Azzurri fought back to level the scores as Botes kicked his only successful penalty while his clever pass also put skipper Sergio Parisse into space to dot down.
Ireland then scored a telling try before the break. After being awarded a penalty in a kickable position, they opted to go for touch and successfully crossed the chalk after several phases through winger Tommy Bowe.
The hosts grinded out the win in the second half as Italy struggled to muster any threat with ball in hand. Bowe completed a brace while reserve prop Tom Court and wing Andrew Trimble grabbed late tries in the dying moments.
By Gareth Duncan