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Ireland Hold Off Spirited Italy For Six Nations Win

  • 3 min read

Wing Mack Hansen scored a brace of tries as Ireland held off a spirited challenge from hosts Italy in Rome to claim a 34-20 bonus-point victory in the Six Nations and stay on course for a Grand Slam.

Ireland, who top the Six Nations table with 15 points from three matches, looked as though they would run riot after four tries in the first 35 minutes, with lock James Ryan, fullback Hugo Keenan and centre Bundee Aki the other scorers.

Italy took the game to their vaunted visitors though and ran the ball from all positions, sometimes naively, as they scored tries through scrumhalf Stephen Varney and wing Pierre Bruno, but they could not convert when well placed in the second half.

Ireland led 24-17 at halftime but the game tightened up after the break with Italy flyhalf Paolo Garbisi superb in controlling the tempo for the home side, who continue to impress in defeat in this year’s competition.

“You can see how much Italy have improved, that was a proper game today,” Ireland captain Ryan said. “I thought we were a bit unlucky today, we left a couple of scores out there.

“We showed good grit in the second half to get a result. Italy played from anywhere and we have to be better defensively. We won’t be looking for any excuses, the guys who played today did a good job.

“We now have two weeks to prepare for another massive game against Scotland at Murrayfield.”

Italy asked plenty of questions of their visitors and will take much from the contest, but they now have three defeats in the Six Nations, even if their performances under coach Kieran Crowley have much improved on previous years.

The visitors were superb in the opening half-hour as they picked apart the Italian defence almost at will, aided by the home side trying to run themselves out of trouble when a clearing kick would have relieved the pressure more effectively.

Ireland scored the first try as a combination of Aki, wing James Lowe and Ryan allowed the captain to race clear unopposed and score.

Italy provided a superb response as a barnstorming run from number eight Lorenzo Cannone took them to within a few yards of the Ireland line, and Varney finished off.

But Ireland hit back once more when excellent hands in the backline put Keenan through the smallest of gaps and he beat two weak tackles to score.

It was a familiar combination for the third Irish score as Lowe fed Aki and the latter dotted down in the corner, before Hansen got his first with the bonus-point try in the corner.

The second half was more cagey with the teams trading penalties before Hansen sewed up the game with a second score in the final 10 minutes.

“We gave everything but it was not enough,” Italian captain Michele Lamaro said. “We conceded too much the first 30 minutes. We were still in the game and could have done something more.

“We have to work on the small margins. They put pressure on us the whole 80 minutes which gave them the opportunity to score points. We have to be precise on the breakdown and the passes.”