Jonny May scored a spectacular try as England recorded a 41-18 bonus-point victory over Italy at Twickenham on Saturday.
Following last week’s shock win by Scotland, England bounced back with a convincing victory against Italy to open their Six Nations account and kick off their title defence.
For the Azzurri, this result condemned them to a 29th straight Six Nations defeat, dating back to the 2015 campaign. It will no doubt increase the already swirling questions about their presence in the premier international competition in Europe.
Despite the result and its various ramifications, Italy made the brighter start of the two teams, playing with great intent and determination. And they were duly rewarded for their effort when wing Monty Ioane crossed for the first try of the game.
On their part, England were slightly erratic in the opening exchanges, but settled into a rhythm as the match progressed. They responded with an unconverted try and a penalty to take the lead, but a penalty by Italy’s Paolo Garbisi levelled matters soon after that.
But as England grew in confidence, they started to match Italy’s pace and tempo. But, ultimately, it was clinical execution when opportunities were presented that set the hosts apart from their visitors.
Anthony Watson shredded the Italy defence to put the home team in the ascendancy, but it was May’s superb airborne finish that deservedly drew plaudits. With one defender between him and the tryline, May pulled off a flying leap over Italy’s Luca Sperandio – knowing exactly where the touchline was – to dot down spectacularly in the corner right on the stroke of half time for a 20-8 lead.
The second half was a much more one-sided affair, with England dominating proceedings. Italy would get the first points of the second half through a Garbisi penalty, but England broke their defensive line at will as they ran in two tries scored by Watson and debutant Jack Willis.
Willis’ debut delight was short-lived though as he suffered a horrific knee injury, slumping to the ground and screaming in agony before he was driven off on the medical cart.
Italy found their second wind in the last 15 minutes. As they managed to increase their share of possession, they strung together a lethal attacks, with one resulting in a self-converted try for replacement Tommaso Allan. But with the game losing a bit of structure, England’s Elliot Daly exploited the gaping holes in Italy’s defence to cross for his team’s sixth and final try.
Notwithstanding the flattering scoreline, this was by no means a statement performance from the reigning Six Nations champions. They will need to clean up their disciplinary issues and improve defensively if they are to successfully defend the title this year.
England – Tries: Jonny Hill, Anthony Watson (2), Jonny May, Jack Willis, Elliot Daly. Conversions: Owen Farrell (4). Penalty: Farrell.
Italy – Tries: Monty Ioane, Tommaso Allan. Conversion: Allan. Penalties: Paolo Garbisi (2).
England – 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Owen Farrell (c), 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinkler, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Subs: 16 Jamie George, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 Ben Earl, 21 Dan Robson, 22 George Ford, 23 Max Malins.
Italy – 15 Jacapo Trulla, 14 Luca Sperandio, 13 Ignacio Brex, 12 Carlo Canna, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Stephen Varney, 8 Michele Lamaro, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 David Sisi, 4 Marco Lazzaroni, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Luca Bigi (c), 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Subs: 16 Gianmarco Luccesi, 17 Danilo Fischetti, 18 Giosue Zilocchi, 19 Niccolo Cannone, 20 Frederico Ruzza, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Tommaso Allan, 23 Frederico Mori.
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