Six Nations 2014: Ireland 46-7 Italy
Ireland (17) 46
- Sexton 2, Trimble, Healy, Cronin, McFadden, McGrath
- Sexton 2, Jackson 2
Italy (7) 7
Ireland marked Brian O'Driscoll's final Test on home soil by securing a huge win over Italy to stay on course for the Six Nations title.
O'Driscoll, becoming rugby's most-capped player, set up first-half tries for Jonny Sexton and Andrew Trimble.
In between Italy winger Leonardo Sarto scored a fine individual try.
Cian Healy, Sexton and replacements Sean Cronin, Fergus McFadden and Jack McGrath got tries as Ireland turned up the heat in the second half.
It meant a healthy 39-point winning margin, which will take Ireland to Paris in a week's time knowing victory should be enough to make them champions.
In the end, it was a satisfying outcome for Ireland and their talismanic record-breaking centre O'Driscoll on the occasion of his 140th and penultimate international appearance.
However, it was certainly not plain sailing for Joe Schmidt's side, especially when they received a shuddering wake-up call in the form of Sarto's 25th-minute try which saw Italy deservedly level the contest at 7-7.
But Ireland responded impressively to set them up for a massive final-day encounter with France in Paris on 15 March.
When Sexton got his second try with a quarter of the game still to go, Ireland had a 20-point cushion - and that was the signal for coach Schmidt to withdraw O'Driscoll, who departed with a rousing ovation ringing in his ears.
There was no way a man of O'Driscoll's focus and experience was ever going to allow the occasion of his final Dublin international to distract him from the job in hand.
And it was his crafty lay-off, after a lengthy spell of patient Irish build-up, that put Racing Metro fly-half Sexton in for a try in the seventh minute.
But Italy, despite losing tight-head Martin Castrogiovanni with broken ribs, displayed attacking adventure and earned their reward through Sarto's crowd-silencing score.
When O'Driscoll attempted to kick a loose ball forward, it fell for Sarto on the Irish 10m line and he saw off a weak tackle by Rob Kearney to score under the posts.
Fly-half Luciano Orquera converted before Sexton slotted a penalty to wrest back Ireland's lead.
Ulster winger Trimble snatched a vital score just before half-time, making the line on the left flank with man-of-the-match O'Driscoll again supplying the final pass.
Sexton then made it three out of three with the boot for a 10-point interval advantage.
Prop Cian Healy scored the third Irish try in the 53rd minute, forcing his way over after replacement scrum-half Eoin Reddan had been held up.
Sexton missed the conversion, but got his second try by finishing a well-worked move involving O'Driscoll and brothers Rob and Dave Kearney.
It was O'Driscoll's final Lansdowne Road contribution as he was replaced by Leinster's McFadden.
Ireland, aware of how important points difference could be in the ultimate reckoning, maintained the pressure and hooker Cronin saw the gap to get over for his first international try.
Replacement number 10 Paddy Jackson added the conversion, and did the same when McFadden landed the hosts' sixth try.
Ireland were not finished, McGrath capping the final play of the game with another try deep into stoppage-time.
Ireland: R. Kearney, Trimble, O'Driscoll, D'Arcy, D. Kearney, Sexton, Murray, Healy, Best, Ross, Toner, O'Connell, Henderson, Henry, Heaslip.
Replacements: Redan for Murray (17), McFadden for O'Driscoll (61), Jackson for Sexton (63), McGrath for Healy (53), Cronin for Best (54), Moore for Ross (56), Ruddock for Henderson (53), Murphy for Henry (73).
Italy: McLean, Esposito, Campagnaro, Garcia, Sarto, Orquera, Tebaldi, De Marchi, Ghiraldini, Castrogiovanni, Geldenhuys, Bortolami, Furno, Derbyshire, Barbieri.
Replacements: Masi for Garcia (63), Allan for Orquera (63), Gori for Tebaldi (70), Rizzo for De Marchi (56), Giazzon for Ghiraldini (70), Cittadini for Castrogiovanni (7), Pavanello for Bortolami (63), Vosawai for Derbyshire (56).
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Touch judges: Pascal Gauzere (France) & Greg Garner (England)
TV: Geoff Warren (England)