I’m going to go straight into match report mode here as I’m writing a virtual novel on my Rome weekend to be posted later.
The teams came on to great noise, It wouldn’t shock me to know that there were more England fans than Italian, therefore Swing Low sounded out loud early on, the Italians responded in kind with cries of “Italia, Italia” much better than the Scottish boo’s!
To the game, England had an early penalty advantage, they played through however and turned the ball over when a George Ford pass was intercepted as advantage was called over. Italy surged forward, kicking ahead but the ball ended up in touch. England failed to execute the lineout cleanly, turning the ball over again.
Italy were on fire as they turned the ball over a third time in under 6 minutes, things weren’t quite going according to plan for the visitors! A wayward throw/poor lineout jumping delivered the ball to Italy from an England throw in, the Italians were rewarded with a well deserved penalty duly converted by Carlo Canna.
Anthony Watson knocked on from the kick off, the ball went into touch and Italy chose the lineout option, they made their first mistake of the day, knocking the ball in for the first scrum of the afternoon. England put in a big push and Lorenzo Cittadini was penalised, Owen Farrell stepped up to even the scores. There were a few whistles, but the announcer was quick to ask for respect and it was then given throughout the rest of the match.
England played some champagne rugby with Ben Youngs breaking through before making a great pass, the attack was halted by a huge tackle on George Ford by Michele Campagnaro, the force was such that the ball was dislodged.
Italy lost their number 5 Marco Fuser early on and it looked like England might be losing Owen Farrell when Jackson sent him from the field for a Head Injury Assessment – it was hard to see what was happening in the ground, looking on the TV I don’t think he took a knock to the head. But it was interesting to see the referee intervening – that can only be a positive for the game. Farrell returned, which was something of relief with only 2 Backs on the bench.
Within the same play England had been awarded a penalty, Ford converted to put England ahead. Canna however evened the scores up with another Italian penalty as England failed to roll away. England were penalised yet again from the kick off, Luke McLean kicked for territory, in a common theme England were penalised yet again . The striking, bearded Gonzalo Garcia took the long distance kick, failing to make the posts.
England seemed to come alive with 24 minutes on the clock when Jonathan Joseph and Farrell hunted down a high kick, Mike Brown followed up putting Italy under pressure, they turned the ball over. Young based the ball out quickly to Billy Vunipola who proved he can do anything Mako can with a sweet pass to Farrell who passed out to Ford on the wing, he ran in to score. The kick hit the posts but England had regained the lead.
Italy however looked most likely to score as time rolled on, Watson pulled a move not often seen in union, simply grabbing the ball out of an Italians’ hands before speeding up the pitch, it was a sight to behold!
I’d judge that Dylan Hartley was very lucky not to be penalised for a high tackle on Sergio Parisse in the middle of the pitch – Parisse was falling, but his head was knocked back by the force of the hit. Ben Youngs high tackle on the captain was however penalised a few minutes later and Canna made no mistake closing the gap to 2. The teams went in at half time with the scores on Italy 9 England 11. The whistle was blown against England a lot in the first half, the stats show that Italy had 50% possession and spent 54% of the time in the England half.
Mattia Bellini showed silky skills early in the first half, making a great break, however he carried the ball in one hand so when he was finally tackled he dropped the ball – something of a schoolboy error from the Italian. The next error was Englands’ as Hartley threw in to the lineout – it was clearly not straight.
Anthony Watson impressed again when McLean took a high ball, he was quick to ruck over with Chris Robshaw and Dylan Hartley winning the ball back for England. However the opportunity was squandered when England gave away another penalty as they tried to roll towards the line after a lineout.
James Haskell was lucky not to see a card after he – to use a technical term – barged into McLean as he was taking the ball in the air. Haskell was at risk of hurting himself more than McLean, penalty awarded, but no card. A 9th penalty was awarded against England, this time Chris Robshaw was the guilty man – Canna however failed to capitalise.
The next penalty was awarded against……… England – the captain Hartley this time, he went into a ruck with his shoulder, this was a marginal decision, but a penalty it was.
The tide turned for England when Jonathan Joseph intercepted a pass thrown by Leonardo Sarto, Joseph made no mistake touching down between the posts. An easy kick for Farrell took England to 18 – and I for one England fan breathed slightly easier.
England had made several substitutions with 54 minutes on the clock, Maro Itoje entered the fray for his first senior cap to much applause from the crowd. It was interesting that the man who generally starts in the second row for his club took over at 7 from James Haskell. Danny Care had come on a few minutes earlier – I hadn’t realised he arrived that early in the second half, that makes the choice of Man of The Match even harder to understand!
Joseph stretched the lead further after a superb grubber kick by Danny Care, the pack had rolled the ball down the pitch and had a penalty awarded, Care’s kick was perfectly balanced to allow Joseph to run in fro his second try under the posts. Joseph ran through 5 Italian defenders, with not a one coming anywhere near. Farrell added the extras to stretch England to 25 points.
Martin Castrogiovanni came on to a great welcome from fans of both countries – the warmth felt for the Italian men who’d played their trade in England along with admiration for the great Parisse was plain to see.
Farrell added another penalty on 62 minutes, making sure his Joining Jack sign was seen by the TV. Jack Clifford, another young star, came on for Chris Robshaw, swapping with Itoje to his more natural position at 7.
Italy had a great opportunity going close to the England line, seeing yet another penalty awarded against England, with a 19 point gap they kicked for touch. A further penalty was awarded against England – I have to say England were lucky not to see yellow with the number of penalties given away during the match – 15 in all.
Italy attacked with some style, England defended well and legally, winning the penalty as Itlay were penalised for holding on to the ball.
Jonathan Joseph scored his third try after a knock on by Italy landed in Joe Launchbury’s hands, he made a great break before setting the ball back – Joseph had taken himself put to the wing, passes from Care then Ford saw him power over the line with three Italians hanging on to him – a really strong try for his hat trick! Joseph had been quiet in Edinburgh, it was great to see him back in form. The kick was a difficult one and teh second to hit the uprights for Farrell.
At this point on the TV the commentator suggest this was a hammering for England and the fact that England scored a further try through Owen Farrell after a wonderful offload from his Saracens team mate Jamie George would suggest so – with the conversion taking the final score to Italy 9 England 40. The scoreboard certainly suggests a hammering and I know that’s the stat that ultimately counts – but other stats tell a different story – Italy had 72% possession in the second half and spent 71% of the time in England’s half. Stats to warm the Italians’ hearts I’m sure – and to worry Scotland who are up next in Rome. A good win for England, they still haven’t conceded a try, but if those stats are repeated in the next 3 games the results are likely to be rather different!
- Cost of Ticket – £63.00