Ireland’s bid to become the first team to win successive Six Nations Grand Slams moved a step closer on Sunday as they breezed past Italy at Lansdowne Road.
Dan Sheehan scored a brace of tries as the Irish backed up on their sublime opening 38-17 victory over France with a 36-0 win in Dublin.
Andy Farrell’s side became the first Irish team to prevent an opposing side scoring in the tournament for the first time since England in 1987 in the then Five Nations.
The Irish next host Wales, who have lost their opening two matches, in a fortnight.
It was not as smooth as their win over the French with some sloppy and scrappy play but they barely gave Italy — who had pushed England all the way in a 27-24 loss last Saturday — a sniff of a chance.
Before the anthems there was a minute’s applause for former Ireland and British and Irish Lions legend Syd Millar, who died last December aged 89.
The match started with perhaps Italy’s brightest period of play.
However, Italy head coach Gonzalo Quesada was left shaking his head in the fifth minute as Paolo Garbisi missed a chance to put them ahead with a kickable penalty.
The Irish made them pay immediately, Hugo Keenan’s dashing run to the halfway line setting them up.
It resulted ultimately in Craig Casey feeding his Munster teammate Jack Crowley to go over for his first try for his country.
The 24-year-old flyhalf celebrated accordingly but a bit of a letdown came soon after as he scuffed his conversion although a strong wind was not helping the kicker’s cause.
Some sloppy play by the Irish followed giving the Italians a glimmer of hope but Crowley sparked their second try to settle them down.
A superb offload to Robbie Henshaw opened up the Italian defence and the centre then found Stuart McCloskey who passed to Sheehan to go over.
Crowley converted this time for 12-0 after 25 minutes.
Italy were offered only crumbs in attack but Ange Capuozzo’s dancing feet took him past several Irish players — it was only a terrific tackle by Craig Casey that prevented him going all the way.
It was Ireland instead who struck, Jack Conan marking his recall to the first team bulldozing over for his 10th try for the Irish — Crowley converted for 19-0.
There was no let-up from the Irish in the second-half, Sheehan going over for his second try as the Italians’ errors cost them both territory and points.
Crowley’s conversion drifted wide but Sheehan’s effort secured the Irish the offensive bonus point.
A Robbie Henshaw try was disallowed — prompting a rueful shake of the head — but Italy’s problems deepened when referee Luke Pearce sent Tommaso Menoncello to the sin bin for tripping.
The Irish took advantage, James Lowe producing a bullocking run, his power too much for Garbisi and Capuozzo, dragging the latter over the line for 34-0.
Crowley’s conversion was again wide but at 29-0 it did not matter.
There was to be one more try for the clinical Irish as Calvin Nash went over in the corner for his second try in two matches — Harry Byrne converted for 36-0.
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