Hudson bags hat-trick in Italian rout
Darren Hudson raced over for three tries as Ireland got their campaign off to a flying start at Dubarry Park last night.
Ireland were on always on top against a poor Italian side in Athlone, and the performance will give Allen Clarke's men a huge boost for the tougher tasks ahead.
The hosts led 13-0 at the break, but really should have been out of sight after a first half of almost total dominance.
They got on top up front from the outset to set the platform for victory, with centres Brendan Macken and Nevin Spence in fine form.
They did not make the most of their chances in the opening period, but they never looked back once winger Hudson got in for his first try after 20 minutes.
Spence got the second seven minutes from the break and the game was over as a contest two minutes after the restart when Simon Zebo finished in the left corner and James McKinney added the touchline conversion to make it 20-0.
Hudson got his second try after a good line-out move on 53 minutes and he completed his hat-trick four minutes from time following fine work from full-back Andrew Conway.
The try of the night came in stoppage-time when Macken crowned a fine display with a break which left a trail of defenders in his track as he jinked his way to touch down under the posts.
Ireland -- A Conway; D Hudson, B Macken, N Spence , S Zebo (E Griffin 57); J McKinney (B Kingston 60), J Cooney (M Heaney 70); B Cagney, N Annett (D Doyle 61), J O'Connell (S Maguire 63), D O'Callaghan (Brian Hayes 66), B Marshall, R Ruddock, D Ryan (R O'Sullivan 44), P Butler.
Italy -- R Trevisan; G Venditti (M Mortali 70), T Benvenuti (F Menon h-t), S Rodwell, G Alberghini; T Iannone, E Gori (A Chillon h-t); C Fazzari, N Corbanese, F Pepoli (A Denti h-t), E Targa (E Lubian 76), L Santelli (F Cazzola 59), N Belardo, F Ferrarini, G Cicchinelli.