- Toby Flood kicked six penalties from six attempts at Twickenham
- England now travel to Cardiff for a Grand Slam decider with Wales
England 18 Italy 11
England maintained their unbeaten record in the 2013 RBS 6 Nations as Toby Flood’s boot secured an 18-11 victory over Italy at Twickenham Stadium.
The recalled fly half was 100 per cent from the tee but England misfired in attack and with a Grand Slam to play for in Wales next weekend, Stuart Lancaster will be concerned by the manner of the victory.
Led by the outstanding Sergio Parisse, Italy steadily improved through the game and scored the only try through Luke McLean after getting in the ascendency at the breakdown in the second half. But, England can take heart from their resilience in defense and discipline at key moments.
England started with purpose and forced Italy into conceding a series of early penalties. From the first, in the third minute, Flood slid over the opening points of the match from wide right after England bust the visiting front row at the opening scrum.
Almost immediately, Mike Brown was close to a first Test try, charging down a clearance kick from Italy full back Andrea Masi but not managing to touch the ball down in the in-goal area.
England continued to run a series of phases and Flood extended the lead to 6-0 with a simple penalty on the quarter hour mark after Italy launched into the breakdown off their feet. But the visitors got off the mark with their first incursion into England’s half, No.10 Luciano Orquera bashing over a penalty with purpose in the 18th minute.
Italy surge back
After a let-off when Alessandro Zanni galloped clear down the right, Flood came close to the opening try on 24 minutes. With England gorging on 75 per cent possession and 82 per cent territory, the Leicester Tigers fly half opted to carry with players out wide but the Italy defence held him up.
Despite best efforts of Zanni and Parisse, Italy continued to fly off their feet at the breakdown and Flood added two more penalties to make the half time score 12-3. England forced Italy into conceding nine penalties in the first half and the Leicester Tigers man was making them pay.
But after Flood and Orquera has exchanged early penalties in the second half, Luke McLean grabbed the game’s only try in the 50th minute. After Danny Care badly miscued a box-kick in the England 22 – sending the ball directly up in the air – the ball was shifted to Orquera and his beautifully weighted kick left the wing with the simple task of collecting and flopping over the line.
Photo: Getty Images
Orquera missed the conversion but Italy were firmly in the game and the same man sent a penalty chance wide soon after as the Twickenham crowd began to get anxious with the lead only four points.
But Flood calmed the nerves with another penalty on the hour mark, stroking a sixth successive penalty through the uprights. Lancaster rung the changes, including a pleasing return for flanker Tom Croft 11 months after he suffered a serious neck injury playing for Leicester Tigers, but Italy showed their gradual improvement through the second period. The visitors looked most likely to score and had spells of concerted pressure, spurning a three-man overlap in the final ten minutes.
Crucially, replacement lock Courtney Lawes rose magnificently to snare an Italy line out deep in the 22 as the clock ticked down. England now head to Cardiff for a Grand Slam decider with Wales next Saturday.
England v Italy teams
England: Goode, Ashton, Tuilagi, Barritt, Brown, Flood, Care, Vunipola, T. Youngs, Cole, Launchbury, Parling, Haskell, Robshaw, Wood.
Replacements: Twelvetrees for Barritt (67), B. Youngs for Care (58), Marler for Vunipola (58), Hartley for T. Youngs (72), Wilson for Cole (76), Lawes for Parling (46), Croft for Haskell (51). Not Used: Burns.
Italy: Masi, Venditti, G. Canale, Garcia, McLean, Orquera, Gori, De Marchi, Ghiraldini, Castrogiovanni, Geldenhuys, Furno, Zanni, Barbieri, Parisse.
Replacements: Benvenuti for McLean (72), Botes for Gori (58), Lo Cicero for De Marchi (76), Giazzon for Ghiraldini (60), Cittadini for Castrogiovanni (29), Pavanello for Geldenhuys (63), Minto for Furno (63). Not Used: Favaro.
Sin Bin: Gori (30).
Referee: George Clancey (RFU).