Stander shines for Ireland in Rome
REPORT: A hat-trick of tries for Christiaan Stander and Craig Gilroy, and nine conversions from flyhalf Paddy Jackson, relaunched Ireland's Six Nations title hopes Saturday with a record 63-10 win over Italy in Rome.
Ireland, the 2015 champions, arrived in the Eternal City looking to make amends for a 22-27 defeat at Murrayfield when Scotland scored three tries in the opening half hour.
And Joe Schmidt's men left the "Colosseum" of the Stadio Olimpico with no doubts as to their tournament credentials.
Ireland's previous highest score against Italy was a 60-13 win at Lansdowne Road in March 2000. This win was their highest against Italy away from home.
Although Italy made amends for a 7-33 defeat to Wales with far better discipline, Conor O'Shea's men were dominated for long periods and, worryingly, saw their defence collapse in a completely one-sided second half.
O'Shea, who played 35 times for Ireland as a fullback, had asked for a disciplined performance after shipping 15 penalties to Wales.
But in doing so, Italy's game elsewhere suffered.
Ireland thought they had a try on 11 minutes only for Angelo Esposito's timely block on Simon Zebo to force the Irish centre to lose possession at the point of touchdown.
But their opener came a minute later, the Azzurri defence spread thinly as the ball was fed out to Keith Earls on the right flank. The first of Jackson's conversions gave Ireland a 7-0 lead inside the quarter-hour.
Italy reduced arrears quickly thanks to Carlo Canna's 16th-minute penalty after Ireland were caught offside.
But the hosts were on the back foot immediately, Parisse coming to the rescue twice with saving tackles before Italy's defence caved in when Stander collected Zebo's skip pass to touch down past the left corner flag.
Jackson's conversion bobbled over for a 14-3 lead.
Faint Italian hopes were often cut short by handling errors, and a tight Irish defence intent on making amends for their poor start to Scotland last week.
And the Azzurri's reputed defence was not up to scratch either.
It took a double-team effort from Parisse and Esposito to stop Zebo when he burst into the 22.
From a ruck moments later, fast Irish hands moved the ball out to the right channel, where Earls was left on his own to run over unhindered, Jackson converting for a 21-3 lead.
When Italy's opening try came on 32 minutes, it was down to Irish indiscipline, referee Glen Jackson awarding a penalty try after the visitors collapsed the line-out drive.
Ireland were without Donnacha Ryan after his yellow card, but made light of his absence minutes later when Stander touched over for his second try to secure a fourth-try bonus point for the visitors.
Jackson converted on 36 minutes for a 28-10 first-half lead that left Italy in disarray.
Almost from kick-off, Italy's defence was under intense pressure. Ryan returned on 44 minutes and Italy buckled two minutes later when Stander collected Conor Murray's offload from a ruck outside the 22 to skip round a series of tackles and seal his hat-trick.
Jackson kicked his fifth conversion for a 35-10 lead.
Italy offered a glimpse of promise when Canna collected from the ruck to carry 20 yards to the tryline, but Ireland responded with some great, flowing rugby.
Schmidt made a series of changes for the final quarter and the fresh legs were too much for Italy, Gilroy touching over the first of his hat-trick on 68 minutes after skipping inside his marker outside the 22 and running home.
Inspired, Garry Ringrose pulled off a similar move four minutes later, with Gilroy completing his hat-trick with a brace of tries in the final minutes.
Man of the match: Flank Christiaan Stander is one of the best players in the world at the moment. He was a colossus in open play and scored three tries as well - he deserves the award. Special mention also goes to wing Keith Earls for his two tries as well.
Moment of the match: Ireland became the first team to bag a four-try bonus point when Christiaan Stander went over for the second of his three tries.
Villain of the match: It was a good game, so no one
Try: Penalty Try
Tries: Earls 2, Stander 3, Gilroy 3, Ringrose
Cons: Jackson 9
Yellow card: Donnacha Ryan (Ireland, 31 - cynical play, collapsing the maul)
Italy: 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Luke McLean, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Simone Favaro, 6 Maxime Mbanda, 5 Dries Van Schalkwyk, 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Ornel Gega, 17 Sami Panico, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 George Biagi, 20 Abraham Steyn, 21 Giorgio Bronzini, 22 Tommaso Allan, 23 Michele Campagnaro.
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Christiaan Stander, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 John Ryan, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Craig Gilroy.
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)
Agence France-Presse & @rugby365com