Six Nations 2014 champions Ireland got their defence off to a stuttery start in Rome, winning comfortably 26-3 but failing to fire for most of the match. Two tries in three minutes, against 14 men, proved enough to hold off the spirited Italians.
The visiting Irish side, who beat the likes of South Africa in November, took over an hour to score a try in Rome, despite dominating with 63% territory and possession. Italy’s defensive effort was superb, and it took a yellow card to break things down after the hour mark.
“We showed great quality in the defensive phase,” said Italy’s coach Jacques Brunel.
“But.. it’s impossible to win with so little possession. Certainly, the main issue today was the lineout. Our scrum is at or even better than Ireland’s level.”
Conor Murray and Tommy O’Donnell scored a try apiece while Ian Keatley kicked 14 points.
The victory for Ireland was their eighth successive Test win for the first time since 2009, but they will need to work on their error count when hosting France next weekend.
“It was a slog, but I don’t know if it was that frustrating. Any time you come to Rome that’s exactly what you’re expecting – a slog,” said fullback Rob Kearney. “We knew that if we just kept chipping away and trying to build some phases that eventually we would break them down.”
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