DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland crushed Italy 56-19 on Saturday to make it two Six Nations wins out of two, running in eight tries to secure their first bonus point of the championship.
After Johnny Sexton’s last-gasp drop goal rescued a win in Paris a week ago, Joe Schmidt’s side could not have asked for an easier afternoon but the eight-try victory could have come at a cost through the loss of prop Tadhg Furlong and centre Robbie Henshaw to injury.
“After getting out of jail last week we were looking forward to coming home and putting on a show. We’ll be disappointed with the 19 points we conceded but that’ll kick start our campaign. It’s exactly where we want to be,” scrumhalf Conor Murray said in a pitchside interview.
Ireland, who ran in nine tries against Italy in each of their last two meetings, looked to keep ball in hand throughout and despite a couple of early handling errors, they were three tries to the good after just 20 minutes
Henshaw and centre partner Bundee Aki grabbed the first and third from close range following intense forward pressure while Murray got the pick in between, finishing off a slick touchline move neatly assisted by Six Nations debutant Jack Conan.
Italy, coached by former Ireland fullback Conor O’Shea, also tried to run what little ball they had but, starved of opportunity, they never came close to hurting Ireland early on.
Aki, whose earlier try was his first for his adopted nation, showed off his pace to set up the fourth as he sucked in the Italian defence to put winger Keith Earls clear to secure the extra point before halftime.
The rout continued early in the second as Henshaw ran in a smart interception try but the celebrations were short-lived as he left the pitch in a sling following the grounding, joining Furlong who went off with a leg injury in the first half.
The yawning gap meant Ireland could afford to rest Sexton and Murray on 50 minutes and count on more forward superiority, handing Rory Best and Jacob Stockdale a try each before the Ulster winger sprinted through for a second late on.
However, emptying the bench so early also left the hosts disjointed and Italy grabbed three consolation tries through Tomasso Allan, Edoardo Gori and Matteo Minozzi and could have had a bonus point of their own were it not for a try-saving tackle from Earls.
The Italians equalled their worst ever run in the tournament with a 14th consecutive defeat.
Reporting by Padraic Halpin, editing by Ed Osmond