Ireland recorded a dominant 36-0 win over Italy at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, making it two wins out of two in this year’s Six Nations.
Andy Farrell’s side didn’t really hit top gear, but were still too much for Italy, who failed to score a single point and rarely looked like doing so.
Ireland scored 19 unanswered points the first half and clinched the bonus-point score just 10 minutes into the second half on route to a straightforward win.
Jack Crowley, despite a shaky time from the tee, was wholly impressive in the 10 shirt as he pulled the strings. And the likes of James Lowe and Jack Conan were a nightmare for Italy.
Ireland won their 17th consecutive win in Dublin as they denied Italy a single point in their 36-0 win.
It took less than 10 minutes for the hosts to get their first try. Hugo Keenan took a quick tap and go from his own 22 and raced into Italy’s half. Ireland switched on and powerful carries battered a scrambling Italian defence. Sweeping from one side of the pitch to the other, a subtle pop pass from Craig Casey let Munster colleague Jack Crowley stroll in for his first ever senior try.
The young 10 was instrumental once again for the second try. Two slick no-look passes in the build up and Dan Sheehan found himself with a clear run in on the nearside.
The third try came right at the edge of the half as Jack Conan stormed his way over from short range after a powerful maul.
Ireland’s fourth and bonus-point came off the back of another maul. Sheehan got his second of the day as the Irish spun Italy round at the maul, allowing the hooker to power through the middle with ease.
If it sounds like everything was going Ireland’s way, that’s because it was. Italy, while still fighting as best they could, only entered Ireland’s 22 just twice and the visitors just couldn’t make a dent in the green wall.
James Lowe soon scored Ireland’s fifth with just under 20 minutes to go, all but confirming Ireland’s victory. The Leinster winger powered through about four tacklers and despite being stopped short, managed to extend his arm far enough to touch down.
Andy Farrell introduced several substitutions which seemed to ruin Ireland’s cohesion a bit, but Calvin Nash scored their sixth and final try of the day with a beautiful finish in the corner. It was the Munster winger’s second Six Nations try in as many games.
Farrell’s side cap of a dominant performance and it’s the goldenboy Nash that gets his second Six Nations try in a green jersey. Ireland were desperate to sling the ball out wide and get another try, and Gibson-Park was at the heart of that move, but it was an exceptional finish from Nash who rode through several tacklers.
Ireland barely needed to hit top gear in what was a supremely dominant win. With two weeks to rest now until a Welsh side who’ve lost two on the bounce, a Grand Slam for Ireland looks more and more likely by the day.
Player of the Match – James Lowe
The winger was a nightmare for Italy today, tearing through holes throughout the game and closing them on the defensive end.
The Leinster back scored Ireland’s fifth try with a world class finish, breaking through about four Italian players on his way to the line.
He showcased his physicality, and his big left boot was so important for Italy keeping a stranglehold on the territorial game.
“He played really well, didn’t he? He looked very strong. I think our scrum was man of the match, to be fair. It was a lovely weapon and we backed up our line-out performance from last week as well,” head coach Farrell said on Lowe post-match.
Lowe, speaking to ITV Sport, said: “It’s nice to be back home and we’re pleased with the result, but obviously there are a few things we need to work on. We’re looking forward to a week off and then a couple of hard days of training.
Talking Point: Andy Farrell’s Squad Depth
Ireland absolutely flexed their squad depth today with six changes from last weekend’s win in Marseille. Despite that, Farrell’s side barely needed to get out of third gear to beat a poor Italy.
It wasn’t perfect and Farrell and the team will no doubt point out a number of things they could improve on. But they managed to rest a number of key players and now have two weeks to recover before they host Wales on 24 February.
With how quickly injuries can rack up and change the complexion of this tournament, that Ireland have brushed aside the first two weeks unscathed is perhaps their biggest victory of the tournament so far.
Ireland: Porter 7, Sheehan 7.5, Bealham 7, McCarthy 6, Ryan 6, Baird 7, Doris 6, Conan 8, Casey 8, Crowley 8, Lowe 8.5, McCloskey 7, Henshaw 7.5, Nash 7, Keenan 7.5
Replacements: Kelleher 7, Loughan 7, O’Toole 6, Henderson 7, van der Flier 7, Gibson-Park 7, Byrne 6, Larmour 6
Italy: Fischetti 6, Lucchesi 4, Ceccarelli 6, Cannone 3, Ruzza 4, Izekor 4, Zulian 6, Lamaro 6, Varney 5, Garbisi 5.5, Ioane 6, Menoncello 5.5, Brex 7, Pani 4, Capuozzo 6
Replacements: Nicotera 5, Spagnolo 5, Ziloccchi 5, Zambonin 4, Vintcent 4, Page Relo 5, Mori 4
7’ TRY! IRELAND 5- 0 ITALY: Powerful carries from the likes of Henshaw and the forward pack before Craig Casey and Jack Crowley combine in the corner to score.
23’ TRY! IRELAND 12 – 0 ITALY: Dan Sheehan scores Ireland’s second of the day. The hosts overwhelm Italy on the nearside and Stuart McCloskey pops off to Sheehan who has a clear run to the line.
37’ TRY IRELAND 19 – 0 ITALY: Try number three for Ireland and it’s Jack Conan this time. Joe McCarthy almost scores off the back of a maul, but Conan was impossible to stop from short range a few phases later.
50’ TRY! IRELAND 24 – 0 ITALY: Ireland get their bonus point try and Dan Sheehan gets his second of the day. Italy’s maul gets spun around to their left and Sheehan powers through the middle with ease. Crowley can’t add the extras again.
58’ YELLOW CARD! Tommaso Menoncello heads to the sin-bin after a trip on James Lowe.
62’ TRY! IRELAND 29 – 0 ITALY: Brilliant finish from James Lowe. The winger powered through about four Italian tacklers and despite being stopped short of the line, managed to extend his arm long enough to touch down.
77’ TRY! IRELAND 36 – 0 ITALY: Calvin Nash scores his second Ireland try with an incredibly impressive finish as the rides through several challenges to reach the line.
80’ FULL-TIME! IRELAND 36-0 ITALY: Just a supremely dominant win from an Ireland team that had six changes from last week, and they made it look easy quite frankly.