Ireland hammer Italy to secure first 2021 Six Nations win

Alasdair Mackenzie
·2 min read

By Alasdair Mackenzie

ROME (Reuters) - Ireland scored six tries in a 48-10 bonus-point victory over Italy on Saturday to earn their first win of this year's Six Nations and condemn the hosts to a 30th consecutive defeat in the tournament.

Tries from Garry Ringrose, Hugo Keenan and Will Connors gave the visitors a seemingly unassailable 24-point first-half lead, but Italy hit back before the interval when Johan Meyer touched down in the corner.

CJ Stander muscled over to secure the bonus point for Ireland and Connors added a further score while Italy had two men in the sin bin, before substitute Keith Earls dotted down a sixth Irish try after the final move of the game in Rome.

"It is always a tough place to come and they are a well coached side," Ireland captain Johnny Sexton told ITV.

"We need to keep our performance level like that against two very good sides. This group is on a journey together and we would have liked to have that performance before."

Ireland climbed above Scotland and England in the table into third place with seven points, although both those teams have a game in hand. Italy remained bottom of the standings without a point.

Ireland travelled to the Italian capital with a point to prove after losing their opening two games to Wales and France.

Andy Farrell’s side mustered only two tries in those matches, but they made light work of an Italian side that will reach the six-year anniversary of their last Six Nations win on Sunday.

With Sexton pulling the strings after returning to the side following a head injury, Ireland took control of the match in a blistering opening half an hour.

Ringrose burst through the Italian defence to score the game’s first try before turning creator for their second, neatly offloading to fullback Keenan, who sprinted over the line.

Another clever offload, this time from winger Jordan Larmour, sent Connors in at the corner for Ireland’s third, before Meyer revived Italian hopes with a try in the final seconds of the first half.

Ireland’s tally of 27 points was their highest in the first half of a test match since February 2018 – also against Italy – and they didn’t relent after the break.

Stander burrowed over within two minutes of the restart to restore the handsome lead, and the hosts’ task became more challenging when prop Giosue Zilocchi and Luca Bigi were sent to the sin bin within six minutes to leave the Azzurri with 13 men.

Ireland took full advantage as Connors went over from a rolling maul and Sexton’s superb flat pass put Earls in at the corner in the final seconds.

(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie, editing by Ed Osmond)