Ireland leads 6 Nations after dispatching Italy 50-17

Ireland will lead the Six Nations into the last round after accounting for Italy 50-17 in a deserted Lansdowne Road on Saturday.
The first Six Nations match in more than seven months completed the penultimate round suspended by the coronavirus pandemic.
Ireland go to Paris next weekend leading England and France by one point in the standings. Another bonus-point win would earn Ireland a fourth title in six years. But Ireland has scored four tries in France only once, ever. And still lost. England has the easier route to the title, Italy in Rome. England has never lost to Italy, and Italy hasn’t won any Six Nations match since 2015.
"How many times have we gone over to Paris and won? Not too many times,” Ireland captain Jonathan Sexton said.
"We need to go and just concentrate on our performance because France are an outstanding team. But we have a special group. If anyone can do it we can.”
Ireland spoke respectfully of Italy in the buildup, but made its four-try bonus-point intentions known early when it eschewed penalty kicks to set up attacking lineouts. The strategy worked, as three of Ireland’s first four tries were launched from lineouts, including the important fourth in the 61st minute.
At that point, Ireland led 31-10, and Irish thinking turned to pouring it on in case points differential becomes decisive next Saturday in the final tally.
The Irish added three more tries to total seven, but a rush to restart with time up backfired when new Italy flyhalf Paolo Garbisi ghosted through the Irish and touched down between the posts.
Ireland could still be happy about the introduction of flanker Will Connors and wing Hugo Keenan, and Jacob Stockdale’s first senior start at fullback. Lost to the team for the rest of the autumn campaign, however, was center Garry Ringrose, who broke his jaw making a tackle.
Ireland enhanced its attacking options by dominating the breakdown, pinching ball at six rucks and forcing four turnovers just in the first half.
From a turnover, Ireland went for the lineout and No. 8 CJ Stander barged over in the ninth minute while scrumhalf Conor Murray was in the sin-bin for a professional foul.
Sexton took the penalty kick after a collapsed Italy scrum, but waived another penalty shot in the 30th. A lineout, rolling maul, and quick hands out left gave Keenan momentum to crash through three Italians for his first try.
Keenan finished a seemingly brilliant second try two minutes later, but Stockdale’s 40-meter break was eased by teammate James Ryan blocking opposite lock Marco Lazzaroni and the try was rubbed out.
Remarkably, Keenan had to wait only four more minutes to score again. Italy went through 17 phases to be within 10 meters of the Irish line, but flanker Caelan Doris stole the ruck ball, Murray kicked ahead and Keenan scooped up and became the first Irishman in seven years to score two tries on debut.
From 24-3 at halftime, Ireland’s fourth try was delayed by Italy wing Edoardo Padovani, in his first test since the Rugby World Cup a year ago, intercepting Sexton and running 50 meters clean to the posts.
Soon after, Connors scored Ireland’s fourth from a lineout drive.
The only conversion Sexton missed was for his own try, after Stander and Doris ran over Italians. Bundee Aki and replacement hooker Dave Heffernan also crossed.
But the restart in injury time was dropped by Peter O’Mahony, and Italy attacked. Garbisi, only 20, broke two tackles and dummied a third to be the third newcomer in the match to score on debut. He finished the match as he started it, with a goalkick.

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