Monday 16 October 2017

England show off their six appeal to the Azzurri

England 47 Italy 17

Jonathan Joseph (2ndL) of England celebrates scoring his second try with team mates Billy Twelvetrees, Luther Burrell and Anthony Watson of England during the RBS Six Nations match between England and Italy at Twickenham Stadium. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Jonathan Joseph (2ndL) of England celebrates scoring his second try with team mates Billy Twelvetrees, Luther Burrell and Anthony Watson of England during the RBS Six Nations match between England and Italy at Twickenham Stadium. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
England's Danny Cipriani (R) kicks the ball forward during the Six Nations international rugby union match between England and Italy at Twickenham Stadium in south west London. AFP PHOTO / GLYN KIRKGLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images
James Haskell of England is tackled by Sergio Parisse (L) and Marco Bortolami of Italy during the RBS Six Nations match between England and Italy at Twickenham Stadium on February 14, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Dave Attwood of England wins a lineout ball during the RBS Six Nations match between England and Italy at Twickenham Stadium on February 14, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Anthony Watson of England makes a break during the RBS Six Nations match between England and Italy at Twickenham Stadium on February 14, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Paul Rees

England failed to score a try at home to Italy two years ago, but they have six appeal now. Jonathan Joseph, who in the autumn appeared to have as much chance of forcing his way into the starting lineup as Danny Cipriani, was at the heart of a performance of pace and power that would have unsettled stronger opponents.

England's next match, against Ireland in Dublin, will be influential in the title race. They are playing smarter rugby, perhaps by happy accident after injuries forced different selections with Joseph the leading beneficiary, without losing the capacity to take a grip on a game up front.

England were forced to move all but one of their outside backs 12 minutes in after another case of concussion.

The Italy centre Andrea Masi looked offside when he gathered Kelly Haimona's chip into England's 22 but play continued and the move caught out the home side with Jonny May up in the line and no one covering the space behind. Mike Brown came across at speed to stop Masi from reaching the England line, but the full-back went into the tackle at an awkward angle, his head hit his opponent's hip and he slumped to the floor where he was treated for four minutes before being put on a stretcher and carried from the pitch. He quickly came round and came out in the second half to join England's replacements.

Brown has so made the position his own that England have this season done without having a specialist full-back on the bench so Anthony Watson moved there from the wing and his position was taken by the outside-centre Joseph. Luther Burrell moved from 12 to 13 and Billy Twelvetrees came off the bench to take up his customary position in the midfield.

England were by then 5-0 down having started the game by running from deep in their own half, buoyed by two lineout steals and a heightened mood of expectation after the opening day victory in Cardiff. Italy may be, by some way now, the weakest team in the Six Nations and in danger of slipping below Georgia in the world rankings and down to 15th, but they have the capacity to prick hubris, early in a match at least.

Dylan Hartley's throw into a lineout on halfway missed its target and George Biagi's deflection gave Italy the opportunity to run at an unprepared defence. Luca Morisi, not for the last time, got through the line and after he was tackled 10 metres out, Sergio Parisse forced his way through the tackles of Billy Vunipola and Dan Cole to open the scoring.

Italy should have extended their lead after 16 minutes when Biagi found himself in space on the halfway line with a clear field ahead of him. There was no way he was going to remain ahead of most in a white jersey, but he took too long to find Giovanbattista Venditti outside him and Joseph was able to smother the pass.

The rest, for the most part, was England. George Ford kicked a penalty after his opposite number Haimona was blown for not rolling away and the hosts took the lead on 23 minutes when they kicked a penalty to touch and deceived Italy into preparing for a driving maul: Chris Robshaw caught the throw and passed immediately to Dave Attwood who slipped the ball to Vunipola as the No8 appeared on the outside. He was tackled by Edoardo Gori but managed to touch the ball down to the satisfaction of the television match official, although even after several replays and numerous camera angles, it looked dubious.

There was nothing contentious about England's second try three minutes later, Joseph splitting the defence on a 50-metre run for his second try of the tournament. He scored his second on the hour in almost identical fashion: once he is through a defensive line his pace makes it him difficult to catch. With Watson and Jonny May two other backs light on their feet and quick off the mark, Italy found themselves in a tussle they were not equipped for.

England led 15-5 at the interval, Haimona missing two penalties from long-range. Ford's second penalty five minutes after the restart was followed by a try from nothing by Morisi who, after Leonardo Sarto had caught his own chip ahead, saw Attwood and James Haskell standing too far apart and accelerated into the gap between them and away.

Italy were struggling up front and, after Robshaw had forced a turnover five metres out, the Azzurri were penalised for collapsing.

As they turned away in expectation of Ford asking for the tee, Ben Youngs tapped and went, spinning off George Kruis on his way to the line. Ford's second penalty extended the advantage to 18 points and when Joseph sealed victory, players from England's past made an impact from the bench. Cipriani had been on the field for less than a minute in his first appearance at Twickenham since 2008 when he appeared on May's shoulder to score and Nick Easter was at the bottom of a driving maul for his side's final score of the afternoon, becoming at 36 the oldest player to claim a try for England.

Italy had the last word when Morisi crossed in the corner for his second try - the occasional slackness in defence was the one blemish for England - but the reworked back division was a point in mitigation.

There will be tougher tests ahead, but England have a bounce they lacked just three months ago.

Observer

Scorers - England: Joseph (2), B Vunipola, Youngs, Cipriani, Easter try each; Ford 3 cons, 3 pens, Cipriani con. Italy: Morisi 2, Parisse try, Allan con.

England: M Brown, A Watson, J Joseph, L Burrell, J May, G Ford (D Cipriani 61), B Youngs (R Wigglesworth 66); B Vunipola, C Robshaw, J Haskell, G Kruis, D Attwood (N Easter 49), D Cole (K Brookes 58), D Hartley (T Youngs 58), J Marler (M Vunipola 62).

Italy: L McLean, L Sarto, L Morisi, A Masi (Bisegni 70), G Venditti, K Haimona (T Allan 70), E Gori (G Palazzani 70); S Parisse, F Minto, M Bergamasco (S Vunisa 58), M Bortolami (J Furno 45), G Biagi, M Castrogiovanni, L Ghiraldini, A De Marchi.

Referee: J Lacey (Ireland)

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