Six Nations: Ireland 56-19 Italy

By Cian MurtaghBBC Sport NI at Aviva Stadium
2018 Six Nations
Ireland (28) 56
Tries: Henshaw 2, Murray, Aki, Earls, Best, Stockdale 2 Cons: Sexton 5, Carbery 3
Italy (0) 19
Tries: Allan, Gori, Minozzi Cons: Allan 2

Ireland ran in eight converted tries to secure a bonus-point victory over Italy and make it two wins from two in the 2018 Six Nations Championship.

Centre Robbie Henshaw and winger Jacob Stockdale both crossed twice with the others by Conor Murray, Bundee Aki, Keith Earls and skipper Rory Best.

However, Ireland conceded three tries in the second half in Dublin.

Tommaso Allan, Eduardo Gori and Matteo Minozzi scored for Italy, coached by former Ireland back Conor O'Shea.

Despite leaking those points, coach Joe Schmidt will surely be satisfied with how the side has started in the championship.

Leinster winger Jordan Larmour, tipped as a rising star of Irish rugby, came on as a replacement when Henshaw was injured and although he showed some nice footwork on debut, he was outshone by Ulster's Jacob Stockdale as he continued the fine start to his international career.

Ireland's attacking intent

Against France, Ireland made 193 carries, 50 more than any other team in round one - but for less than two yards per effort.

They also passed the ball 60 times more than any other side, which was a reflection of the possession they enjoyed in Paris, but it was clear Schmidt's team deliberately attacked the France defence around the fringes of the ruck.

Centre Henshaw was injured while touching town for his second and Ireland's fifth try
Centre Henshaw was injured while touching down for his second and Ireland's fifth try

Against Italy, there was a different side to the Ireland attack, as they attempted to spread the ball wide from the opening minute when Lions centre Henshaw twice got around the corner of the Italy defence.

The bonus point was secured before half-time but Ireland kept hunting for more as they used the pace and strength of their wingers to hurt Italy out wide in what was a ruthless performance.

Strength in numbers

It may have been against the championship's weakest team, but the match illustrated the increasing depth of quality in the Ireland squad.

Many would consider Sean O'Brien to be Ireland's first choice open-side flanker when fit, but the Leinster man remains sidelined with a hip problem.

In O'Brien's absence, Josh van der Flier was impressive before limping off during the first half against France and his replacement, Dan Leavy, is now making his own claim for the number seven shirt.

Indeed, it was the flanker's turnover in the 35th minute that led to the bonus-point try by Earls.

Along with Murray and fly-half Johnny Sexton, Tadgh Furlong is one of the most important players in the Ireland team - but even the loss of the Lions tight-head prop after just three minutes didn't disrupt the hosts as Andrew Porter, 22, slotted in seamlessly.

Sexton and Murray, who both played the full match in Paris, were called ashore in the 50th minute but their replacements, Joey Carbery and Kieran Marmion, kept Ireland on the front foot as the hosts ran in a further three tries in the closing half hour.

O'Shea's Italy still in development

Matteo Minozzi scored Italy's third try
Matteo Minozzi scored Italy's third try and looks like being an important player for them

This must have been an emotional occasion for former Ireland full-back O'Shea, who was trying to plot the downfall of the team he represented on 35 occasions.

Italy remain a work in progress under him and again demonstrated an array of exciting attackers once the game opened up in the second half.

However, they were unable to cope with the suffocating Ireland defence when the game was still in the balance.

Full-back Minozzi, 21, looks to be a real find for the Azzurri, who can no longer rely on an ageing pack of forwards to keep them in games.

Larmour makes his bow

Larmour is having the kind of rookie season that dreams are made of.

The young Leinster tyro was still on an academy contract at the beginning of this season, but has made a rapid rise through the ranks and is now a capped international.

The 20-year-old had a mixed Test debut, with one scintillating burst up the centre in the closing minutes getting the crowd at the Aviva Stadium to its feet.

However, he was badly caught out for Italy's second try as he rushed up in pursuit of Carbery's clearing kick but was easily beaten by Minozzi as Italy counter-attacked down the left wing.

Man of the match - Conor Murray (Ireland)

Ireland's Conor Murray
Ireland's scrum-half scored the home side’s second try and set a tempo Italy couldn’t live with in the opening 50 minutes to demonstrate why he is the most highly rated number nine in the championship

What's next

The first rest week of the 2018 Six Nations will give both sides a chance to assess the opening two rounds.

The likes of O'Brien, Garry Ringrose and Niall Scannell are all in varying stages of recovery and will be hoping to earn a call-up to the Ireland camp before the visit of Wales on 24 February.

Italy continue to show signs of progress under O'Shea and will travel to Paris in two weeks' time for a Friday night game against a team in rebuilding mode.

Two of Italy's last five Six Nations wins have been against Les Bleus, although both of those came in Rome.

What they said

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt: "Both teams tried to use the ball in dry conditions and we got some good width to our game. That was the positive.

"The negative is conceding those tries - that was the disappointing thing.

"In the context of the championship hopefully it won't damage us too badly, perhaps on points differential. We had two 21-year-old wingers out there in the end and it's a good learning experience."


Ireland: Kearney; Earls, Henshaw, Aki, Stockdale; Sexton, Murray; McGrath, Best (capt), Furlong, Henderson, Toner, O'Mahony, Leavy, Conan.

Replacements: Cronin (Best, 60), Healy (McGrath, 67), Porter (Furlong, 3), Roux (Henderson, 40), Stander (Conan, 40), Marmion (Murray, 50), Carbery (Sexton, 50), Larmour (Henshaw, 44).

Italy: Minozzi; Benvenuti, Boni, Castello, Bellini; Allan, Violi; Quaglio, Bigi, Ferrari, Zanni, Budd, Negri, Steyn, Parisse (capt).

Replacements: Ghiraldini (Bigi, 44), Lovotti (Quaglio, 36), Pasquali (Ferrari, 56), Ruzza (Negri, 57), Mbanda (Steyn, 44), Gori (Violi, 57), Canna, Hayward (Boni, 56).

Match officials

Referee: Romain Poite (France)

Touch judges: Pascal Gauzere (France) & Matthew Carley (France)

TMO: David Grashoff (England)


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