England score eight in try rout against Italy
Manu Tuilagi scored his first Test tries in five years as England thrashed Italy 57-14 at Twickenham on Saturday to maintain their Six Nations title hopes.
The rampaging centre, whose career has been blighted by injuries, crossed twice as England ran in eight tries in total against perennial strugglers Italy, for whom this was a 21st successive defeat in the Six Nations.
England will, however, need Grand Slam-chasing Wales to slip-up against Ireland a week on Saturday before they themselves kick-off against Scotland if they are to still have a chance of claiming the Championship.
The match was over as a contest before half-time, with Tuilagi – whose career has been blighted by a succession of injuries – scored one of England’s four tries as they secured a bonus point in the 32nd minute.
Italy, to their credit, were briefly level at 7-7 thanks to fly-half Tommaso Allan converting his own try.
But there was a reason the Azzurri, who’ve now lost all 25 of their Tests against England, were 60/1 outsiders and from then on it was largely one-way traffic.
England, dominating territory from the start, opened the scoring in the eighth minute when hooker Jamie George was driven over from a close-range line-out for a try converted by captain Owen Farrell.
Italy then stunned a capacity Twickenham crowd of over 82,000 with a well-worked score that saw Allan, breaking through a tackle by England scrum-half Ben Youngs on the blind side for a try he converted.
Minutes later, however, England were 14-7 ahead after full-back Elliot Daly sent Jonny May in for the wing’s fifth try in four Tests.
Dynamic wing Joe Cokanasiga, holding the ball one-handed, had already exposed the Italy defence when Tuilagi, renowned as a powerful ball-carrier, burst through Italy wing Angelo Esposito’s tackle and handed off centre Michele Campagnaro before running in from 34 metres for his first England try since one against Italy in 2014.
Fly-half Farrell, who converted that try as well, then found himself in the unusual position of being booed at Twickenham when he opted to kick, rather than run a penalty that extended the lead to 24-7.
A full Test was assuming the air of a match involving the Barbarians, where both teams are expected to run the ball come what may.
Tuilagi then turned provider, with another strong run through weak cover before a well-timed inside pass to Brad Shields saw the flanker score his first Test try – England’s fourth of the game, with Farrell duly adding the simple conversion.
But Italy captain Sergio Parisse was continuing to drive hard despite the scoreline, the No 8 returning for his 137th Test after missing the defeat by Ireland with a concussion.
Italy managed to extend the first half beyond the regulation 40 minutes with a controlled 17-phase move only to knock-on at the last.
Parisse had suggested on Friday that England coach Eddie Jones’ decision to pair Tuilagi alongside fellow strong-running centre Ben Te’o meant the hosts were not going to play “champagne rugby”.
But there was a ‘flair moment’ when George produced a cut-out pass worthy of a midfielder to send Tuilagi in for his second try in the 47th minute.
Farrell, for once, missed the conversion but it scarcely mattered.
Italy managed a second try when Luca Morisi went over in the 54th minute, Allan again adding the conversion.
But England were not done, George Kruis charging down full-back Jayden Hayward’s kick for a 64th-minute try converted by George Ford, one of a stream of replacements.
Reserve scrum-half Dan Robson then scored his first Test try before another charge down saw Shields grab his second try of the game.
Tries: George, May, Tuilagi 2, Shields 2, Kruis, Robson
Cons: Farrell 4, Ford 3
Tries: Allan, Morisi
Cons: Allan 2
England: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Ben Te’o, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell (captain), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Brad Shields, 5 George Kruis, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Nathan Hughes, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Dan Robson, 22 George Ford, 23 Henry Slade.
Italy: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Edoardo Padovani, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Michele Campagnaro, 11 Angelo Esposito, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Braam Steyn, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Dean Budd, 4 Federico Ruzza, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 David Sisi, 20 Jake Polledri, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Ian McKinley, 23 Tommaso Castello.
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand), Andrew Brace (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)