Watson's double helps England bounce back against Italy
MATCH REPORT: England beat Italy 41-18 in a Six Nations international at Twickenham on Saturday.
Anthony Watson scored two as reigning champions England ran in six tries in all after their try-less tournament-opening 11-6 defeat by Scotland last week – the Scots’ first win at Twickenham since 1983.
*As it happened: England v Italy
By contrast, England led 20-8 at half-time on Saturday, with Jonny Hill, Watson and Jonny May all scoring tries after Montanna Ioane had crossed to give the Azzurri a shock third-minute lead.
Watson’s breakaway effort early in the second half put the result beyond doubt before replacement Jack Willis and Elliot Daly added further tries.
This was Italy’s 29th successive Six Nations loss, a run stretching back to 2015, and meant they had been beaten in all 28 of their Tests against England.
But it was still a much-improved showing by the Azzurri, fresh from a humiliating 50-10 loss to France, and they defied all predictions by opening the scoring with Ioane’s third-minute try.
England coach Eddie Jones resisted the temptation to drop captain Owen Farrell following a lacklustre Calcutta Cup showing but moved him to inside centre, with George Ford restored at fly-half as he reverted to a familiar 10-12 combination.
Seasoned props Kyle Sinckler and Mako Vunipola, returned from suspension and injury to form an all-new front row alongside hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie after England’s poor scrum showing against the Scots.
But it was Italy who took the lead after England again conceded an early penalty.
Azzurri No 8 Michele Lamaro gathered the ball off the deck, with scrum-half Stephen Varney’s quick, flat pass releasing half-back partner Paolo Garbisi, who went on the blindside.
A quick handling move saw full-back Jacopo Trulla send in left wing Ioane, the nephew of former Australia wing Digby Ioane, at the corner.
Garbisi missed the conversion and Farrell soon reduced the deficit with a close-range penalty.
When Italy lock David Sisi was penalised for a high tackle near his own posts, Farrell decided against kicking for goal, a move vindicated in the 14th minute when Exeter lock Hill was driven over for his first Test try.
Following Farrell’s missed conversion, Garbisi drew Italy level with a 20th-minute penalty.
After Ford’s high kick caused problems in the Italy defence, centre Henry Slade just lost the race for a touchdown as he went in search of a try.
But England, starting to get on top with man-of-the-match Sinckler leading the way up front, crossed Italy’s line for a second time when wing Watson went over in the 26th minute after a slick move involving recalled back-row Courtney Lawes and a flicked pass from May.
Farrell converted and England led 15-8.
An overthrown England line-out gave Italy the chance of an equalising try but a knock-on saw the chance squandered
That error was compounded for Italy on the stroke of half-time when the acrobatic May leapt in high at the corner as he evaded opposing wing Luca Sperandio’s challenge before touching down for his 32nd try in 63 Tests.
Farrell missed the difficult conversion but England still had a comfortable lead.
Garbisi’s penalty soon after the break reduced England’s advantage to 20-11.
But hopes of an Italy revival were snuffed out when Watson intercepted Garbisi’s pass on the edge of England’s 22 before sprinting clear for a try.
And on the hour mark, Willis went over after replacement scrum-half Dan Robson’s 30-metre break caught Italy cold.
Willis, however, was taken off on a stretcher 16 minutes from time with what appeared to be a knee injury.
Italy replacement Tommaso Allan then scored a try only for fullback Daly to reply in kind.
Man of the match: For England, Anthony Watson was in fine form, the wing was a constant threat out wide and scored a brace of tries. Jonny Hill and Kyle Sinkler were the standout performers in the pack. For Italy captain Luca Bigi led from the front, making multiple tackles. While our nod goes to England flank Tom Curry, whose workrate was immense, he was a menace at the breakdown and got his team on the front foot.
Moment of the match: England wing Johnny May’s try in the 40th minute. The wing showed impressive skills with an acrobatic finish which saw him jump over the defender in placed the ball while in mid-air.
Villian: No one
Tries: Hill, Watson 2, May, Willis, Daly
Cons: Farrell 4
Tries: Ioane, Allan
Pens: Garbisi 2
England: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Owen Farrell (captain), 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 Ben Earl, 21 Jack Willis, 22 Dan Robson, 23 Max Malins.
Italy: 15 Jacopo Trulla, 14 Luca Sperandio, 13 Ignacio Brex, 12 Carlo Canna, 11 Montanna Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Stephen Varney, 8 Michele Lamaro, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 David Sisi, 4 Marco Lazzaroni, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Luca Bigi (captain), 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 17 Danilo Fischetti, 18 Giosue Zilocchi, 19 Niccolo Cannone, 20 Federico Ruzza, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Tommaso Allan, 23 Federico Mori.
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Romain Poite (France), Ben Blain (Scotland)
TMO: Joy Neville (Ireland)