Manu Tuilagi scored a try in each half as rampant England cut Wales’ lead to just a point with a 57-14 Six Nations thrashing of Italy at Twickenham.
England’s Grand Slam hopes were dashed by Wales in Cardiff a fortnight ago and they took their frustration out on the Azzurri with a ruthless eight-try drubbing on Saturday.
The outstanding Tuilagi grabbed a first Test try for five years and claimed another in the second half as England maintained their perfect record against Italy, beating them for a 25th time.
Jamie George and Jonny May tries preceded Tuilagi’s first score and Brad Shields’ maiden Test try to seal the bonus point in a first half that saw Tommaso Allan’s superb converted score bring Italy level, before England took charge.
Luca Morisi touched down for a second Italy try as they were more competitive in the second half, but George Kruis, Dan Robson and Shields added further tries in a rout.
Owen Farrell scored 11 points from the tee as Eddie Jones’ side set up an intriguing final weekend, when they entertain Scotland and hope Ireland do them a favour in Cardiff.
#ENGvITA | Manu Tuilagi goes over for his second
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) March 9, 2019
England piled early pressure on Italy and were rewarded when hooker George barged his way over eight minutes in, but Italy hit back courtesy of individual brilliance from Allan.
The fly-half burst through a gap after a clever show-and-go and a desperate last-ditch tackle from Ben Youngs was unable to deny him a superb try, which he converted expertly from wide on the left.
That was as good as it got for Italy in the first half, Elliot Daly laying a simple score on a plate for May and Tuilagi showed great power and pace to race away for a long-awaited Test try.
Joe Cokanasiga was proving to be a real handful and Tuilagi turned provider for the supporting Shields to claim the bonus point eight minutes before the break, with injuries sustained by Michele Campagnaro and Tommaso Castello compounding Italy’s misery.
England continued to use the width of the pitch and the prowling Tuilagi had a second try when George picked him out with an inviting pass on right flank, but Italy showed great character in the second half and were rewarded with a try from Morisi.
Normal service was resumed when Jayden Hayward took too long to clear and Kruis went under the posts after charging down his kick before the lively Cokanasiga set up Robson for a first Test try.
Shields rubbed salt into the wounds with his second right at the end, Tito Tebaldi seeing his casual kick charged down to give the back-row a gift and George Ford adding the extras for the third time in a ruthless hammering that leaves Italy without a point from four matches and England still eyeing the title.
TUILAGI ON THE RAMPAGE
Tuilagi was outstanding in a dominant display from England. The barnstorming centre ploughed through midfield to score a superb try and laid on another for Shields as he wreaked havoc. The Leicester Tigers star was replaced just after the hour mark after making 10 carries totalling 77 metres.
COKANASIGA NO AVERAGE JOE
Cokanasiga grasped his opportunity with both hands after being given a first Six Nations start. The powerhouse wing showed why such big things are expected of him with a mix of finesse, great hands, sheer power and a rapid turn of foot. The Bath flyer even packed down in the back row and showed his class by setting up Robson and it would be a surprise if he is not unleashed on Scotland.
KEY OPTA FACTS:
– England’s 43-point victory is the biggest in this year’s Six Nations, and England’s biggest winning margin in the tournament since a 59-13 win against Italy in 2011.
– Owen Farrell scored 11 points to take his tally past 800 in his Test career (805), he is the 14th player in history to reach that tally and the second Englishman after Jonny Wilkinson (1246).
– England scored 50-plus points in a Six Nations game for the 10th time (since 2000), no other side has managed that on more than six occasions (Ireland – 6, France – 3, Wales – 3).
– Jonny May has scored five tries in this year’s tournament, the most by an England player in a Six Nations campaign since Chris Ashton’s six in 2011.
England will attempt to repeat their drubbing of Scotland two years ago and hope Ireland burst Wales’ bubble, while Italy face France in Rome next Saturday.
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