England crush Italians to keeps dreams alive of Six Nations title
Italy 11 England 52
Published 15/03/2014 | 14:29
England ran out at the Stadio Olimpico with the objective of putting Italy to the sword to improve their chances of winning a first RBS 6 Nations crown under Stuart Lancaster.
The Rome showdown opened the final day of the Championship, with the title being decided only after France's clash with Ireland in Paris.
Manu Tuilagi was poised to make his first England appearance in a year after being named on the bench, while captain Sergio Parisse returned for Italy after recovering from a thigh injury.
A cagey opening saw Italy dominate possession and draw first blood with a long-range penalty from Luciano Orquera that was greeted with a mighty roar by the sell-out 80,000 crowd.
England were struggling to build momentum in the face of some fearsome Azzurri defending and a promising move broke down when Michele Campaigner intercepted a pass intended for Luther Burrell.
Owen Farrell levelled the score with a penalty and the Red Rose were immediately back on the offensive, rapidly spinning the ball left and right as they probed for weaknesses.
A brilliant offload from Burrell pierced Italy's defence with the Northampton centre's pass out of a tackle by Gonzalo Garcia finding Mike Brown, who switched on the afterburners and raced over.
The promising start continued with Farrell converting Brown's try and an Italian backs move being swept into touch, only for a succession of unforced errors to then creep into their game.
Loosehead Mako Vunipola was penalised at a scrum and Orquera obliged with the three points to keep Italy in touch.
All week England had stated that winning was their only ambition in Rome, but the attacking intent they were displaying showed a desire to overhaul Ireland's imposing points difference.
At times they played with too much haste with the resulting lack of accuracy disrupting their momentum.
Brown was involved in just about every move and when Burrell powered into space and fed Danny Care they looked on for a second try, but Italy's cover defence was superb.
Burrell and Care were prominent as England attacked again and this time they were able to cross the whitewash, their scrum-half darting across field and sending Farrell in under the posts.
The floodgates were already opening and this time Farrell was the provider as he rode a tackle and expertly slipped a pass to Brown who galloped over.
Intro: England were on course for a heavy victory over Italy in their RBS 6 Nations clash with Italy in Rome.
Mike Brown crossed twice and Owen Farrell also touched down in a half dominated by Stuart Lancaster's men.
Farrell converted all three tries and added a penalty to put England in a promising position in their last-gasp title bid.
Campagnaro took advantage of Burrell being caught out of position to break free amid a promising start to the second half from Italy, but England were soon back on the offensive.
The tempo was lifted but passes were failing to stick, number eight Ben Morgan knocking on at full tilt and Vunipola spilling forward.
Burrell went within a whisker of scoring but the ball was kicked from his grasp by an unconventional late tackle made out of hope rather than expectation.
Italy's problems mounted when Marco Bortolami was sin-binned for offside and soon after their whitewash was breached for a fourth time, Nowell rounding off a backs move at a scrum.
Adding to their woes was the 53rd-minute arrival of Tuilagi from the bench, although the decision to bring him on at the expense of the superb Burrell was odd.
Italy's defence was falling to pieces and they effectively waved England through for their next two tries with Vunipola and Tuilagi strolling over.
It was then the visitors' turn to blunder, however, with wing Leonardo Sarto picking off an intercept try from Joe Launchbury's pass.
Farrell was lucky to escape a yellow card after tackling Edoardo Gori around the neck and then pulling him to the ground amid a frustrating end to the match for England.
The flow of tries had dried up, but there was still time for one more with captain Chris Robshaw taking Farrell's injury-time pass and coasting over.