Jonathan Joseph scored three tries as England smashed Italy 40-9 in Rome on Sunday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
England will be thrilled with the fightback in the second half. Indeed, for 50-odd minutes, they were on the ropes.
They battled for accuracy at the lineouts and breakdowns. They were rattled by an Italy team that was clearly up for a street fight. Italy flooded the breakdowns, and flew off the defensive line with breakneck intensity. They refused to allow England to dictate the pace of the game.
The hosts lost three players to injuries in the first half. And yet, somehow, they trailed just 11-9 at the break.
Italy made a costly mistake in the 53rd minute that altered the course of the game. Several players raced back to retrieve a kick by England, and then attempted to launch a counter-attack. A flat pass was well read by Joseph, who intercepted it and ran through to score.
Joseph added a second to his tally four minutes later. Italy again failed to control possession in their own 22, and Joseph swooped on a loose ball to score.
Owen Farrell converted both of Joseph's tries, and added a further penalty goal to stretch England's lead to 28-9. At this point, Italy gave up the fight.
By contrast, England continued to improve as the game progressed. In the 70th minute, Joseph powered through three Italy defenders to clinch his hat-trick and seal the result. Farrell scored England's fifth try in the 76th minute to take his personal tally for the afternoon to 17 points.
The result marks England's second consecutive victory of the 2016 campaign, and sees them moving to the top of the Six Nations log.
Italy – Penalties: Carlo Canna (3).
England – Tries: George Ford, Jonathan Joseph (3), Owen Farrell. Conversions: Farrell (3). Penalties: Farrell (2), Ford.
Italy – 15 Luke McLean, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Alessandro Zanni, 6 Francesco Minto, 5 Marco Fuser, 4 George Fabio Biagi, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Ornel Gego, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Subs: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Matteo Zanusso, 18 Martin Castrogiovanni, 19 Valerio Bernabo, 20 Abraham Steyn, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Edoardo Padovani , 23 Andrea Pratichetti.
England – 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jack Nowell, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 James Haskell, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 George Kruis, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Mako Vunipola.
Subs: 16 Jamie George, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Maro Itoje, 21 Jack Clifford, 22 Danny Care, 23 Alex Goode.
Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images