Ireland scored five tries to beat Italy 29-10 in their World Cup warm-up match in Dublin on Saturday.
It was by no means a faultless display from Ireland but still a significant statement ahead of the World Cup.
Both sides named relatively strong lineups, Italy perhaps more so than Ireland, but the hosts still had more firepower especially once they worked their way through initial rustiness in the early stages.
Ireland controlled the scrums and lineouts, but their work at the breakdown will leave coach Joe Schmidt with more questions than answers about some of his fringe loose forwards.
Another concern will be the injury to Joey Carbery. The flyhalf was carted off after just 50 minutes with what appeared to be a serious ankle knock.
Italy made a perfect start when flank Maxime Bands breached Ireland’s line to go over for the opening try of the game, but the hosts responded with a self-converted try from Carbery to take the lead.
Italy, though, played themselves back into the game with promising attack. When Ireland’s defence scrambled back to halt the attack, a deft chip was chased down by Carlo Canno for a try to snatch the lead back for his team.
As it would turn out, that was to be the last tryline action for the Italians as Ireland found a spark to wrestle back the momentum and seize control of the contest.
Dave Kearney and Andrew Conway crossed late in the first half as Ireland took a 19-10 advantage at the break.
Ireland came out firing in the second half, scoring two quick-fire tries to open up a comfortable lead.
But the game deteriorated after that. Both teams created wonderful scoring opportunities, but poor decision-making and handling in the red zone proved costly.
Ireland — Tries: Joey Carbery, Dave Kearney, Andrew Conway, Jordi Murphy, Kieran Marmion. Conversions: Carbery (2).
Italy — Tries: Maxime Mbanda, Carlo Canno.
Ireland — 15 Jordan Larmour, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Chris Farrell 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Jordi Murphy, 7 Tommy O’Donnell, 6 Rhys Ruddock (c), 5 Jean Kleyn, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Andrew Porter, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Jack McGrath.
Subs: 16 Niall Scannell, 17 Cian Healy, 18 John Ryan, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Tadhg Beirne, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Jack Carty, 23 Mike Haley.
Italy — 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Marco Zanon, 11 Giulio Bisegni, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Guglielmo Palazzani, 8 Jimmy Tuivaiti, 7 Maxime Mbanda, 6 Giovanni Licata, 5 Dean Budd (c) 4 Alessandro Zanni, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Nicola Quaglio.
Subs: 16 Federico Zani, 17 Andrea Lovotti, 18 Simone Ferrari, 19 Marco Lazzaroni, 20 Renato Giammarioli, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Ian McKinley, 23 Matteo Minozzi.
Photo: Getty Images