6N: Ireland beats Italy 56-19 but Furlong, Henshaw injured
DUBLIN (AP) Ireland got the four-tries bonus point it sought in a second win from two Six Nations rugby matches but beating Italy 56-19 might have cost it two Lions at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.
Tighthead prop Tadhg Furlong limped off with a suspected sprained hamstring in the opening minutes, and center Robbie Henshaw injured his right shoulder scoring his second try of the match.
After beating France on kicks last weekend in Paris, the Irish desperately wanted a bonus-point win to keep up with title rival England. That extra point for four tries was achieved within 35 minutes as they led by a game-over 28-0 at halftime.
The scoreline became 42-0 but Ireland was losing its structure as the reserves flooded in.
Italy, to its credit, also wasn’t dropping its head. Late collapses have marked Italian defeats recently, but the visitors kept pressing and were rewarded with three tries. They almost claimed a bonus point for a fourth in the last minute, but right wing Mattia Bellini, streaking down the right touchline, was run down by Irish wing Keith Earls and Bellini’s offload missed his support.
Ultimately, for a third straight year the Irish posted 50-plus and at least eight tries against Italy. They have two weeks to recover for Wales, the second of three straight home matches.
The first hour almost went to plan for Ireland, their domination reflected everywhere.
Furlong was an early hiccup, but the first try came after 11 minutes. Italy’s defense close in was superb, but out wide Henshaw cut the defense too fast and too close to the line to be stopped.
Minutes later, excellent close-in support on the left touchline by Jacob Stockdale and No. 8 Jack Conan released scrumhalf Conor Murray to sprint home with a smile.
A lineout drive finished with inside center Bundee Aki crashing over, and Ireland was 21-0 in even time.
Then a turnover won by flanker Dan Leavy was counterattacked in a flash. Aki stepped and dummied and blew through the Italians to give Earls a clear run to the right corner, and Ireland had its fourth try.
The half was entirely disappointing from the Italians. Prop Simone Ferrari killed a surge by picking up Irish legs in a ruck, and when they finally threatened the line near halftime, lineout jumper Baam Steyn, without pressure from Ireland, knocked on the attempted catch.
Italy captain Sergio Parisse couldn’t be faulted for trying to inspire his side, but he was intercepted by Henshaw, who was hurt under a tackle as he scored his second try after halftime.
Ireland captain Rory Best scored from a lineout drive. Jonathan Sexton nailed his fifth conversion and was replaced by Joey Carbery, who converted all three of his shots.
Stockdale capped Ireland’s seventh and eighth tries, but the Italians added to the occasion with splendid breaks and three tries, their most against Ireland in 17 years.
Inside center Tommaso Castello set up flyhalf Tommaso Allan, fullback Matteo Minozzi’s break was finished by replacement scrumhalf Edoardo Gori, and Minozzi bagged the third.
”We are much fitter than we were, much, much better, but we’re not at the level that we need,” Italy coach Conor O’Shea said. ”There’s a reason we’re not No. 2 or 3 in the world. And that’s the reason.
”When we held the ball, we looked good. We’ll just keep moving forward, forward, forward.”