Italy 11 England 52 match report: Mike Brown helps England romp to win but title escapes their grasp

England run in seven tries in one-sided contest

Stadio Olimpico, Rome

England set out to do two things amid the sun-kissed splendour of a Roman spring yesterday: to break the Italian spirit, and then break the bank with an avalanche of second-half points that would maximise their chances of winning a first Six Nations title since 2011.

They went close to achieving both goals, but try as they might, they could not put quite enough scoreboard distance between themselves and the Azzurri to alter the delicate balance at the top of the championship table.

At one stage in a one-sided second half, it looked as though Chris Robshaw’s side would sail past the 60-point mark and give Ireland, the marginal favourites for the European crown, a serious dose of the heebie-jeebies going into their meeting with France in Paris. But after opening up a 45-6 lead early in the final quarter, they conceded a soft try to the Italian wing Leonardo Sarto, who intercepted Joe Launchbury’s pass and slipped away down the left for a touchdown no one had seen coming – least of all Launchbury, who, brimming with confidence, was looking to free the full-back Mike Brown on a long run out of defence.

That one misjudgement ensured that England would not set Ireland a target any greater than a single-point victory over Les Bleus. Not that it affected their attacking intent. With the game in overtime, Manu Tuilagi stuck his boot into an Italian ruck to force a turnover, and George Ford’s lovely little show-and-go act in open field presented Robshaw with the try that took the visitors past the half-century mark. It was a smart move by the young outside-half from Bath. If you’re looking to make a name for yourself, there are worse ways than making your captain look good.

England were less accurate in their execution than they had been against Wales six days previously, but with the intensity of the contest way short of that generated during the confrontation with the reigning champions, it did not much matter. Once Robshaw and company settled after a rough 10 minutes from the kick-off – Robert Barbieri’s heavy tackle on Brown in the opening exchanges set the early tone and Italy fully deserved their short-lived lead, courtesy of Lucia Orquera’s penalty – they brought their energy and tempo to bear on proceedings. The Azzurri had no answer to Courtney Lawes at the line-out and never looked like keeping the high-performing half-backs, Danny Care and Owen Farrell, under lock and key.

Farrell, in magisterial form with the boot, squared the argument soon enough with a penalty of his own and when the centres, Billy Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell, worked their way behind Azzurri lines with some excellent approach work – Burrell’s passing out of contact was particularly sweet – Brown brushed off the weakest of tackles from the otherwise eye-catching Michele Campagnaro to race clear for the opening try. The game was 12 minutes old … and the writing was on the wall, in block capitals.

Orquera, perhaps inspired by Farrell’s marksmanship over the course of this tournament, pegged England back at the start of the second quarter with a monster penalty from a position tight to the right touchline, but despite the best efforts of the ever-willing Gonzalo Garcia in midfield, the Azzurri defensive line was being stretched to snapping point. Sure enough, the outcome was decided by two tries in quick succession: the first from Farrell, who took advantage of a clever delayed delivery from Care, and the second from the irrepressible Brown, who fastened on to a pass from his outside-half and set sail on an in-out scoring run that left both Sarto and Angelo Esposito clutching nothing more substantial than handfuls of warm air.

Jacques Brunel, the wise old coach from the Catalan corner of France who has improved Azzurri fortunes since succeeding Nick Mallett after the last World Cup, then went into uncharacteristic meltdown by withdrawing both starting props, who had enjoyed considerable success at the set-piece, in favour of Alberto De Marchi and Michele Rizzo, who promptly scrummaged the English front-rowers back into the game. Jack Nowell, the Exeter wing, was the immediate beneficiary of this sudden outbreak of close-quarter solidity, scoring his first international try from a well-worked training ground move.

And still the scores came, Twelvetrees using his innate intelligence in broken field to send Mako Vunipola rumbling over and Tuilagi, introduced as a centre rather than a wing despite a deluge of speculation that he might be tried in one of the wide positions, giving it the “full metal jacket” treatment in touching down to the left of the sticks.

There was nothing much that Italy could do about it: not even Sergio Parisse, a live contender for the title of the world’s best No 8 on an annual basis, looked his usual million dollars, thanks to the blue-shirted poverty around him. It was not quite all doom and gloom for the home side – if they hold their nerve and continue to give the likes of Campagnaro and Sarto opportunities, preferably outside a half-back partnership of Edoardo Gori and Tommaso Allan rather than the men who started yesterday – they could yet stem their precipitous fall down the world rankings. But on this evidence, they have lost a massive amount of ground on England in the space of a year.

Or just maybe, it is England who have gained the ground. There were some flaws in the fine detail yesterday, but the big picture stuff was very impressive indeed.

Italy: L McLean; A Esposito, M Campagnaro, G Garcia (A Masi, 72), L Sarto; L Orquera (T Allan, 42), T Tebaldi (E Gori, 65); M Aguero (De Marchi, 46), L Ghiraldini, L Cittadini (M Rizzo, 46-70), Q Geldenhuys, M Bortolami, J Furno (P Derbyshire, 55; G F Biagi, 61), R Barbieri, S Parisse (capt).

England: M Brown; J Nowell, L Burrell (M Tuilagi, 53), W Twelvetrees (G Ford, 70), J May; O Farrell, D Care (L Dickson, 65); M Vunipola (M Mullen, 75), D Hartley (T Youngs, 53), D Wilson (H Thomas, 70), J Launchbury (D Attwood, 70), C Lawes, T Wood (T Johnson, 65), C Robshaw (capt), B Morgan. .

Referee: P Gaüzère (France).


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower