Unconvincing Irish get past Azzurri

Ireland began the defence of their Six Nations title with a 26-3 win against Italy in Rome, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.

Both of Ireland's tries were scored in the final quarter of the match when they were up against 14 men, and for a long time they were frustrated by Italy's committed defence.

The Irish led just 9-3 at the break thanks to three penalties from Ian Keatley, with Kelly Haimona getting the hosts on the board after the hooter.

Ireland pushed hard for a try early in the second half, and looked set to score when Robbie Henshaw was put into space inside the left touchline. But the centre was brought down 5m short and the arriving player lost possession.

The visitors did get some reward for their dominance when Keatley slotted his fourth penalty, and then took advantage of Leonardo Ghiraldini's 63rd-minute sin-binning for coming in from the side of a maul.

No sooner had the hooker left the field than Conor Murray darted over from a ruck to make it 19-3.

Ireland struck again soon after when Tommy O'Donnell ran onto a pass from Henshaw and shrugged off three defenders to score under the posts.

Italy almost grabbed a consolation try with two minutes to go, but Parisse knocked on just before the line following a clever kick from Haimona.

Italy – Penalty: Kelly Haimona.
Ireland – Tries: Conor Murray, Tommy O'Donnell. Conversions: Ian Keatley, Ian Madigan. Penalties: Keatley (4).

Italy – 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Luke McLean, 10 Kelly Haimona, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (c), 7 Francesco Minto, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 George Biagi, 4 Joshua Furno, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Matias Aguero.
Subs: 16 Andrea Manici, 17 Alberto De Marchi, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Marco Fuser, 20 Marco Barbini, 21 Gulgielmo Palazzani, 22 Tommaso Allan, 23 Giovanbattista Venditti.

Ireland – 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jordi Murphy, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Jack McGrath.
Subs: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 James Cronin, 18 Martin Moore, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Tommy O'Donnell, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Felix Jones.

England snatch win in Cardiff

Photo: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

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Simon Borchardt