Anthony Watson and Sam Simmonds each scored a double as England claimed a 46-15 bonus-point win over Italy in Rome on Sunday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
The end scoreline certainly belies the competitive nature of this match, with Italy having put up a gallant battle until the latter stages when England finally secured the full haul of points.
The first-round signs from the Six Nations certainly suggest it could be a competitive tournament this year, and while England were far from their clinical best on Sunday, they will be pleased to have got the job done in the end – thanks largely to three late tries.
England suffered an early injury blow when scrumhalf Ben Youngs had to leave the field, but the visitors quickly took control of proceedings as Watson demonstrated his pure pace to finish off two tries in the opening quarter.
However, Italy proved that they simply weren’t willing to capitulate without a fight, and responded with a well-worked try to Tommaso Benvenuti in the 20th minute.
That score appeared to serve as something of a wake-up for England, who didn’t have it all their own way in the first half, but would head into the break with a seven-point advantage after Owen Farrell darted through a gap to score and convert his own try.
Soon after the restart, Farrell extended his side’s lead when he popped over a simple penalty, although England were fortunate not to concede a try soon after as a forward pass denied Tommaso Boni a try that could have cut the deficit to just three points heading into the final half an hour.
Italy would have been left wondering what could have been when Simmonds burst away to score moments later. Nevertheless, the hosts kept their vociferous fans interested as Mattia Bellini showed great strength to score in the corner just before the hour mark.
England eventually struck the killer blow when George Ford ran a beautiful line to score a 68th-minute try as the defending Six Nations champs extended their lead to 19 points. They then ensured the scoreline would look particularly flattering as Simmonds and Jack Nowell went over for two more late tries.
Italy – Tries: Tommaso Benvenuti, Mattia Bellini. Conversion: Tommaso Allan. Penalty: Allan.
England – Tries: Anthony Watson (2), Owen Farrell, Sam Simmonds (2), George Ford, Jack Nowell. Conversions: Farrell (4). Penalty: Farrell.
Italy – 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Tommaso Benvenuti, 13 Tommaso Boni, 12 Tommaso Castello, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Sergio Parisse (c), 7 Renato Giammarioli, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Dean Budd, 4 Alessandro Zanni, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Subs: 16 Luca Bigi, 17 Nicola Quaglio, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 George Biagi, 20 Maxime Mbanda’, 21 Edoardo Gori, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Jayden Hayward
England – 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Ben Te’o, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Chris Robshaw, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Maro Itoje, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Mako Vunipola.
Subs: 16 Jamie George, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 George Kruis, 20 Sam Underhill, 21 Danny Care, 22 Johnathan Joseph, 23 Jack Nowell.
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