Dominguez delights Italy

Ireland 29 Italy 37 Try: Bell 50 Tries: Vaccari 6, 61 Pens: Burke 3, 19, 26, 32, 39 Cuttitta 23, Dominguez 78 40, 46, 56 Pens: Dominguez 28, 48, 54 Cons: Dominguez 6, 23, 61, 78; Half-time: 17-18 Attendance: 25,000
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To Lose at home to one non-International Board country could be considered unfortunate, but to lose to two is downright careless. So near yet so far from beating Wales and Scotland this season, Italy deservedly celebrated what they perceived as a major win at Lansdowne Road yesterday in the quest for inclusion in the Five Nations Championship.

But bearing in mind the Western Samoans' similar celebrations at the same venue this season there is a danger of this becoming commonplace. The sheer paucity of the Irish team's stock was again exposed just a fortnight before their championship opener at home to France.

Paul Burke's tally of 24 points beat by one the record for most points in an Irish international set by Ralph Keyes in the 1991 World Cup against Zimbabwe. But Burke's efforts pale in comparison with the Herculean achievement of the Italian stand-off Diego Dominguez, who chipped in with 22 points yesterday to take his total to 436 points in international rugby since gaining the first of his 34 caps in 1994.

That Burke's haul consisted entirely of penalties merely underlined Ireland's inability to create anything from a veritable flood of line-out possession. Admittedly the spoiling Italians brought down mauls and killed ruck ball at will, but one good old fashioned footrush was the summit of Ireland's laborious output.

Time after time they mauled the lineout ball, popped short passes to inside runners or over-kicked, but to no avail. The Italians, sharper and more inventive, exposed Ireland's brittle defence to plunder four tries.

Conor O'Shea's counter attacking runs constituted the few bright sparks of a dour first half, at the end of which Burke's sixth penalty edged Ireland ahead by 18-17. From two sorties into Irish territory, Italy worked tries for Paolo Vaccari wide out and Massimo Cuttitta close in.

Ireland did pick up the tempo in the second half, Dominic Crotty's alertness to O'Shea's clearance enabling Jonathan Bell to pounce over the Italian line after 50 minutes. With Burke and Dominguez exchanging a further brace of penalties apiece, Ireland led 29-23.

But Dominguez adroitly put Vaccari over past the hour and the Italians weathered a late siege before Burke was dispossessed taking a short drop- out to himself for Dominguez to score in the corner and, fittingly, round off proceedings with the touchline conversion.

Keith Wood, the Irish captain, said: "We didn't play with enough passion and, as an Irish side, unless you have passion all the good preparations come to nothing."

Ireland: C O'Shea (London Irish); J Topping (Ballymena), J Bell (Northampton), M McCall (Dungannon), D Crotty (Garryowen); P Burke (Bristol), S McIvor (Garryowen); N Popplewell (Newcastle), K Wood (Harlequins, capt), P Wallace (Saracens), G Fulcher (London Irish), J Davidson (London Irish), D Corkery (Bristol), A Foley (Shannon), E Miller (Leicester). Replacements: P Johns (Saracens) for Fulcher, 66; D McBride (Malone) for Miller 32.

Italy: J Pertile (Roma); P Vaccari (Fly Flot Calvisano), S Bordon (Rovigo), A Stoica, Marcello Cuttitta ; D Dominguez (all Milan), A Troncon (Treviso); Massimo Cuttitta (capt), C Orlandi, F Curti, G Croci (all Milan), W Cristofoletto, A Sgorlon (both Treviso), O Arancio (Milan), J Gardner (Treviso). Replacements: N Mazzucato (Padova) for Marcello Cuttitta, 43; C Checchinato (Treviso) for Cristofoletto, 66.

Referee: R Davies (Wales).