- Mike Brown bags brace as England defeat Italy in Rome
- Ireland must now win in Paris to lift the title
Italy 11 England 52
Mike Brown crossed for two fine tries as England trounced Italy 52-11 in the RBS 6 Nations finale at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
In an attacking display of intensity and verve built on the offlloading skills of the pack, Stuart Lancaster’s side scored seven tries to pile the pressure on Ireland, who must now defeat France in Paris to lift the 2014 title.
Jack Nowell and Mako Vunipola scored first Test tries to add to others from Owen Farrell, replacement Manu Tuilagi and captain Chris Robshaw, but crucially in term of the of the points difference at the top of the table, Leonardo Sarto grabbed a late consolation for Italy.
England won four Championship games for the third successive year but were unable to force Ireland to win by a margin later this evening despite the excellence of Brown and Farrell, who was 100 per cent from the tee and provided two try-scoring passes.
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They started the game in the knowledge that a glut of points was necessary overhaul Joe Schmidt's side, who at kick-off took a 49-point advantage over England to the Stade de France. But from the outset it was clear the passionate hosts were up for the challenge with a series of abrasive carries in the opening exchanges.
After one such surge into England’s half, Vunipola stood up at a scrum and Luciano Orquera completed the simple task of putting Italy into a 3-0 lead from in front of the posts in the sixth minute.
England looked a bit edgy as Lawes knocked on a Billy Twelvetrees pass, but Farrell achieved parity for on 10 minutes after Italy were offside, putting a smoothly-struck penalty through the uprights.
The visitors soon settled, though – 20-year-old wing Nowell putting in a shuddering hit on the Italy captain and talisman Sergio Parisse – and the first-half points started to flow.
Big loose head Vunipola, a late addition to the starting line-up in place of imminent new dad Joe Marler, had a crucial hand in England’s first try on 14 minutes. After Lawes pinched a lineout on England’s 22, Vunipola twice carried with strength get over the gainline and when Luther Burrell offloaded to Brown, a firm hand-off on Michele Campagnaro was enough to see the full back away to score down the left.
Farrell slotted the conversion to make the score 10-3, after which an end-to-end passage of play – Nowell denying Sarto twice and Jonny May being boomed into touch by Angelo Esposito – finished with Orquera trimming the lead to four after a scrum penalty on tight head David Wilson.
The scrum was Italy’s main area of success but gorging on 74 per cent possession and 70 per cent territory, more tries soon arrived for England. First, on the half hour mark, Farrell glided into space after a ruck deep in Italy’s half and collected Danny Care’s neat pass to stroll over past a wragged defence.
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Then Brown scored the try off the half, his fourth of a highly productive tournament having never before notched for his country. After scrappy lineout possession Farrell carried strongly and offloaded to the onrushing Harlequin, who out-paced the covering defence to dive over in the corner.
Crucially, Farrell kicked both penalties for four from four with the boot in the opening half, making the score 24-6 at half time. The job was half-done but as soon as the second half got under way, danger man Campagnaro – who bagged two tries against Wales on his Six Nations debut in Cardiff – provided a reminder of Italy’s threat, nearly escaping down the right.
But England got back in control and a frantic period finished with Exeter Chiefs’ Nowell being engulfed by his jubilant teammates after a first Test score on 53 minutes. After Care tapped-and-went deep in Italy’s 22, Burrell stretched for the line when he had men over down the right but when the ball came back veteran lock Marco Bortolami dived on possession from an offside position and was shown a yellow card.
England chose to scrummage from the penalty and with clean ball, Nowell arrived off his wing on a loop and collected Brown’s pass gleefully to score. Yet again, Farrell thumped over the touchline conversion.
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Vunipola, impressive in the loose throughout, was the next to go over, trotting over from two yards under the posts after Twelvetrees’ powerful carry and deft offload.
As England’s quest for points continued, injury-returnee Manu Tuilagi came on to add his considerable bulk to proceedings. And it only took the powerful centre 10 minutes to score, taking Farrell’s pass – the 22-year-old’s second assist of a proficient display – and crashing through would-be tacklers to cross under the posts on 67.
But just as the points difference turnaround looked on, an energy- and momentum-sapping Italy try arrived out of nowhere. Understandably trying to play their way out of defence, Sarto easily intercepted Joe Launchbury’s pass and raced over in the left hand corner. Orquera missed the conversion, but suddenly the magic 49-point margin of victory appeared far more distant.
Lancaster emptied his bench to try and galvanise his side and they pressed until the conclusion, with captain Chris Robshaw adding the final score on in the 80th minute. The try owed much to the fleet-footed ingenuity of replacement fly half George Ford, who sliced through the tired defence and laid on the score for his indefatigable skipper. Farrell, supreme in every department, added his eighth kick of a brilliant performance from the tee.
Unstinting in their effort for the fifth game in a row, England took a well-deserved lap of honour to take the acclaim of the 20,000 travelling fans. Attention now turns to events at the Stade de France, where a win of any description for Ireland would see them take the title.
England vs Italy teams
Italy: 15-Luke McLean, 14-Angelo Esposito, 13-Michele Campagnaro, 12-Gonzalo Garcia, 11-Leonardo Sarto, 10-Luciano Orquera, 9-Tito Tebaldi; 1-Matias Aguero, 2-Leonardo Ghiraldini, 3-Lorenzo Cittadini, 4-Quintin Geldenhuys, 5-Marco Bortolami, 6-Joshua Furno, 7-Robert Barbieri, 8-Sergio Parisse (captain)
Replacements: 16-Davide Giazzon (for Aguero, 47) 17-Michele Rizzo, 18-Alberto de Marchi (for Cittadini, 47), 19-George Biagi, 20-Paul Derbyshire, 21-Edoardo Gori (for Tebaldi), 22-Tommy Allan (for Orquera), 23-Andrea Masi (for Garcia, 72)
England: 15-Mike Brown,, 14-Jack Nowell, 13-Luther Burrell, 12-Billy Twelvetrees, 11-Jonny May, 10-Owen Farrell, 9-Danny Care; 1-Mako Vunipola, 2-Dylan Hartley, 3-David Wilson, 4-Joe Launchbury, 5-Courtney Lawes, 6-Tom Wood, 7-Chris Robshaw (captain), 8-Ben Morgan
Replacements: 16-Tom Youngs (for Hartley, 54), 17-Matt Mullan (for Vunipola, 76), 18-Henry Thomas (for Wilson, 71), 19-Dave Attwood (for Launchbury, 71), 20-Tom Johnson (for Wood, 67), 21-Lee Dickson (for Care, 67), 22-George Ford (for Twelvetrees, 71), 23-Manu Tuilagi (for Burrell, 54).
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Touch judges: Nigel Owens (Wales) & Leighton Hodges (Wales)
TV: Simon McDowell (Ire)