England stay alive ... just
Sat, 15 Mar 2014 14:21
Paris now the decider
England kept alive their Six Nations dream with a 52-11 win over Italy at the Stadio Olimpico, in Rome, on Saturday.
However, the 41-point winning margin still left them short of Ireland's massive points difference on the standings - meaning they are reliant on a French win in Paris later in the day to secure the championship.
England held a comfortable 24-6 lead at the half-time break, leaving to score at least another 32 points (without any Italian scoring in the second half), to keep their championship hopes alive.
They scored another 28 points, but an intercept try 10 minutes from the end cost them dearly.
As was to be expected, the Italian scrum had the upperhand, while the England line-out was superior in the set piece battle.
While Italy were competitive in most aspects of the game, and at times even looked threatening on attack, they were inevitably their own worst enemies - all too often turning the ball over. It has been a disease that has cost them dearly throughout the Six Nations season.
In stark contrast, England were far more clinical and showed greater patience when they had the ball in hand - often also exposing the brittle Azzurri defence with some hard running.
Unfortunately they also lost their structure when it mattered most - in the final 10 minutes when they needed to score three more tries.
The Azzurri were certainly fired up and in the early exchanges England looked very hesitant - putting down a few high bombs they would normally have handled with ease.
Five minutes into the match the England scrum was penalised for 'standing up' under pressure and Luciano Orquera made it 3-0.
On the 10-minute mark Owen Farrell drew the teams level, after the Azzurri were penalised for playing the ball on the ground, before the first try came - some sublime passing putting Mike Brown into space and over. Farrell added the conversion for a 10-3 lead.
Another scrum penalty, in the 22nd minute, saw Orquera narrow the gap to 6-10.
Just after the half-hour mark Danny Care put Owen Farrell over from a ruck five metres out, with the England flyhalf running an acute angle to expose the Italian defensive line. Farrell added the conversion to make it 17-6.
That became 24-6 right on the half-time break, when - from a line-out that followed an Italian mistaker - Farrell raced through a gap and put Mike Brown over for the third try and the fullback's second. The conversion was good - giving Farrell 14- first-half points.
With half-an-hour to go the Azzurri were reduced to 14 men - Marco Bortolami being sent top the sin bin for a professional foul, playing the ball from an offside position.
England made the home team pay immediately - from a scrum a set-piece move saw Brown put Angelo Nowell over for his first Test try. Farrell's conversion made it 31-6.
Next to score was prop Mako Vunipola, who an all of five metres after Billy Twelvetrees had exposed the Italian defence again. Farrell made it 38-6 with the conversion.
Manu Tuilagi came off the bench to join in the try-feast, using brute force to bust the Italian defence.
However, the England cause was dealt a blow when Leonardo Sarto intercept to narrow the gap to 11-45 with 10 minutes remaining on the clock.
England, becoming increasingly more desperate for quick tries, started to lose their composure.
Chris Robshaw got a seventh try on the final hooter, to see England pass the 50-point mark, but unfortunately they had conceded 11 points as well. Farrell added the conversion, but 52-11 was not as large a victory as they wanted.
They were now reliant on a French win in Paris to claim the Six Nations trophy.
Man of the match: You can always bank on Sergio Parisse to cause all kinds of problems for the opposition - both in carrying the ball and defence. He was also a valuable source of line-out possession. Owen Farrell may not be everybody's cup of tea, but his work on defence and his goal-kicking was very valuable to the England cause, while his distribution skills are improving all the time and he ran a great line for England's second try. It is Farrell's propensity for the overly rough stuff that cost him this award. Danny Care's service has improved steadily throughout the tournament and he was again from the top shelve in Rome. Our award goes to England fullback Mike Brown, who always seemed to find space when he had the ball in hand and also managed to put others into space and over for tries - simply put, he was the spark that England needed on attack.
Moment of the match: It was not so much a moment as a period, but the 10 minutes before half-time produce two crucial tries - by Owen Farrell and Mike Brown - that broke the Italian resistance.
Villain of the match: It was nothing nasty, but Marco Bortolami was yellow carded for a professional foul in the 51st minute - leaving his already under pressure teammates a man down.
Pens: Orquera 2
Tries: Brown 2, Farrell, Nowell, Vunipola, Tuilagi, Robshaw
Cons: Farrell 7
Yellow card: Marco Bortolami (Italy, 51 - professional foul, playing the ball from an offside position)
Italy: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Leonardo Sarto, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Robert Barbieri, 6 Joshua Furno, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Matias Aguero.
Replacements: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Alberto De Marchi, 19 George Biagi, 20 Paul Derbyshire, 21 Edoardo Gori, 22 Tommaso Allan, 23 Andrea Masi
England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Luther Burrell, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Danny Care, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 David Wilson, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Dave Attwood, 20 Tom Johnson, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 George Ford, 23 Manu Tuilagi.
Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Leighton Hodges (Wales)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)
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