Cardiff, United Kingdom: Full-back Mike Brown scored two tries and Owen Farrell added 22 points to secure a 52-11 rout of Italy at the Stadio Olimpico and put England within sight of the Six Nations title on Saturday.
England’s fourth win of the series put them top of the table ahead of Ireland’s clash against France in Paris later, where a French victory could hand England the title.
Vowing to concentrate on their own task of defending a 19-match unbeaten run against Italy, England produced a solid performance throughout and were rarely troubled by a supposedly formidable Italian pack or defence.
On the day, Italy simply didn’t show up and have finished the tournament winless and with the wooden spoon.
By half-time, Stuart Lancaster’s men had built a lead of 24-6 thanks notably to a pair of tries from Brown, one from Farrell and nine points from the boot of the England fly-half.
After the interval, Italy’s heads went down and, although Leonardo Sarto touched over after intercepting a wayward pass from captain Chris Robshaw, further tries from Jack Nowell, Mako Vunipola, Manu Tuilagi and Robshaw, at the death, helped round out a well-deserved win.
Italy had points on the board after six minutes thanks to Luciano Orquera’s penalty but Farrell levelled with an easy penalty from 40 metres out minutes later.
England had shown the most promise in the early exchanges and added to Farrell’s score two minutes later when Brown touched down for the first of his two tries, with Farrell adding two for a seven-point lead from the conversion.
Italy responded with a well-worked move through Orquera but full-back Luke McLean panicked on the 22 and lost possession.
Minutes later the Olimpico was on its feet, Nowell fumbled, Michele Campagnaro picked up the loose ball and sent Sarto clear only for his run to stop short of the try line.
After a Vunipola infringement at the scrum, Orquera hit a penalty from 40 metres out. But from then Italy saw little of the ball as the visitors produced surge after surge and their defence capitulating when Danny Care sent Farrell, running through on the left, clear to touch down between the posts. Farrell added two from the conversion.
Italy’s chances of taking anything from the match virtually ended two minutes before half-time, when Tito Tebaldi kicked straight out while outside his 22.
England won the line-out and their ball-handling skills did the rest with Brown swerving around two defenders before touching down for his second try. Farrell maintained his 100 per cent record with the boot for a 24-6 lead.
Italy produced the first chance of the second half, when Campagnaro skipped past Burrell’s tackle to offload to Esposito but play was stopped due to a forward pass.
Tuilagi finally returned from more than a year on the England sidelines just before the hour when he replaced Burrell, but not before England had taken their lead to 31-6 following another period of pressure which led to Nowell’s maiden try and Farrell adding two points with the boot.
Tuilagi had several Italy players around his ankles on the hour as he pushed for the try line, and that move led directly to England’s fifth try with Mako Vunipola touching over. Farrell added two with the boot to take England’s lead to 38-6.
Tempers flared between McLean and opposite number Brown after some Italian rucking infringements, but the battle on the pitch was already won.
Italy’s woes deepened moments later when Tuilagi powered through the Italian defence to touch down just under the posts, with Farrell adding an easy two points for a 45-6 lead.
Italy bounced back when Sarto pounced on Robshaw’s wayward pass to touch down on 68 minutes although Tommaso Allan, who had replaced Orquera earlier, missed the conversion.
However, England had Italy in their own 22 for most of the remainder and Robshaw capped the one-sided performance by collecting George Ford’s pass in front of the posts to touch down on 80 minutes, with Farrell taking his tally to 22 points with the conversion.
Italy 11 England 52
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France vs Ireland