Ireland secured a comfortable 48-10 victory against a ragged Italian outfit as Andy Farrell’s side claimed their first win of this year’s Six Nations Championship.
Although Franco Smith’s Italian side proved tame opposition, Ireland’s pace in attack and willingness to offload was a welcome sight for Andy Farrell’s backroom team.
The only concern for Ireland was Jordan Larmour being replaced at half time after picking up an injury.
Italy started brightly as fly half Paolo Garbisi kicked an early penalty to give Italy the lead after four minutes of action.
However, their lead was short lived as Italian captain Luca Bigi was penalised for being offside as Sexton levelled proceedings.
Ireland squandered a try scoring opportunity when Iain Henderson was adjudged to have spilled possession when aiming to cross the whitewash. Replays show the Irish lock had scored but the TMO decided against awarding the try.
However, five minutes later Ireland earned a lineout inside their opponents ’22 with Garry Ringrose crossing the whitewash with Italian discipline letting them down.
Andy Farrell’s side continued to dominate as Sexton increased Ireland’s advantage to 10 points after Italian prop Andrea Lovotti did not roll away at the breakdown.
The Azzurri showed plenty of spirit and after turning over Garry Ringrose as Ireland’s discipline let them down as they were penalised three times for breakdown infringements.
Italy kicked to the corner but failed to win the lineout. However, they were awarded the scrum but Ireland won a penalty at the set piece to relieve the pressure.
After a sniping break by Jordan Larmour, Ireland recycled possession as Garry Ringrose offloaded to Hugo Keenan with the fullback haring through the Italian defence.
This was Keenan’s fourth international try, three of which have come against the Azzurri.
Ireland crossed the try line again before the break as a well worked routine helped them make yards off a lineout. They continued to progress up the field with a Jordan Larmour offload finding Will Connors as he crossed for Ireland’s third try.
Italy hit back with a try of their own in the final passage of play in the opening half as Garbisi offloaded to the industrious Johan Meyer with the back rower crashing over. Garbisi slotted the conversion as Ireland led by 27-10 at the break.
Ireland continued to impress in attack as CJ Stander grabbed the bonus point try in the 42nd minute as he burrowed over from close range.
James Lowe broke in to Italian territory five minutes later but his offload to Ronan Kelleher was forward. The men in green were harshly penalised by referee Mathieu Reynaud for blocking at the lineout when they looked to attack off a five metre lineout.
Italy were also punished for blocking when they had a lineout in the Irish ’22. Their cause was further hampered when Italian substitute Giosue Zilocchi was sinbinned when coughing up a penalty with Ireland inching closer to the tryline.
After going to the scrum and winning a penalty, CJ Stander drove over the try line but Ronan Kelleher knocked on with the try being disallowed.
Ireland began to empty the bench with Ryan Baird and Limerick man Craig Casey making their international debuts.
Will Connors crashed over off the back of a lineout maul with the Italians down to 13 with captain Luca Bigi sent to the sinbin.
James Lowe crossed the try line in the 68th minute but Casey’s pass to the winger was forward as the Italians were spared further embarrassment.
Their reprieve was only momentary as Keith Earls crossed the try line in the final passage of play to seal an emphatic victory.
Final Score: Ireland 48 Italy 10