An underfire Ireland side squeezed out Italy 26-16 at a sunny Stadio Olimpico in Rome this afternoon, helped by Jacob Stockdale scoring his 14th international try in 17 tests.

Ireland turned the screw early on and were a try up after ten minutes. The pack put the ball through plenty of phases, tiring out the Italian defence allowing Chris Farrell to make the decisive line break. The ball was recycled and Quinn Roux crashed over under the sticks.

Italy built themselves into the game and converted a penalty after 15 minutes however they switched off from the kick off and Jacob Stockdale gathered, defeated a couple of defenders and crossed in the corner.

We’re yet to see Ireland fire on all cylinders in the tournament and there was more of the same in the first half. Mistakes gave the Italians field position and they duly accepted, Edoardo Padovani found himself in acres of space and brought the home side to within one point.

Another mistake compounded Ireland’s misery. Conor Murray was caught daydreaming at the base of the ruck by Tito Tebaldi and Luca Morisi converted the counter attack to give the hosts a 16-12 lead at half time.

The longer Italy led in the match the more confidence the home side gained. More mistakes inside the first five minutes didn’t help Ireland’s cause. The usually reliable Johnny Sexton and Rob Kearney both suffered from errors but they were the first on the board in the second half. A jinking run from Keith Earls evaded a couple of Italian defenders to score Ireland’s third try.

Italy’s ill-discipline proved costly and Conor Murray scored the bonus point try with 13 minutes remaining. Ten points to the good, Italy threw the kitchen sink at Ireland in an attempt to salvage the match. Ian McKinley missed a penalty kick in overtime while Stockdale nearly set up Earls from the penalty miss however the ball was knocked on.

Unsurprisingly, Italy made it very difficult for Ireland which led to a lot of frustration for the senior players and coaching staff. It wasn’t a good performance however Ireland still crucially came away with the bonus point win. Wales’ win over England has left them in pole position with Scotland and Ireland to come at the Principality Stadium however England’s bonus point wins in the first two game weeks mean that they will finish above Ireland if the record two four-try wins over Scotland and Italy in their final two matches.

6.1 Performance

While Italy were very good, too many of Ireland’s experienced players failed to perform which led to a nervy second half for supporters.
Murray and Sexton at halfbacks didn’t have their best game and I was surprised that John Cooney only saw nine minutes of action. Likewise, Ireland’s lineout went a bit array, which could be down to the wholesale made by Joe in the pack.
I thought Ireland’s standout performers were Dave Kilcoyne, Quinn Roux, Peter O’Mahony and Chris Farrell, while Bundee Aki had a decent 12 minutes before he got injured.

  • Dave Kilcoyne 8
  • Sean Cronin 4
  • Tadhg Furlong 6
  • Ultan Dillane 5
  • Quinn Roux 7
  • Peter O'Mahony 7
  • Sean O'Brien 6
  • Jordi Murphy 6
  • Conor Murray 5
  • Johnny Sexton 6
  • Jacob Stockdale 7
  • Bundee Aki 7
  • Chris Farrell 7
  • Keith Earls 6
  • Rob Kearney 6
  • Niall Scannell 6
  • Jack McGrath 6
  • John Ryan 6
  • Iain Henderson 6
  • Josh vd Flier 6
  • John Cooney N/A
  • Jack Carty N/A
  • Andrew Conway 6
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