Italy 15 - 46 England, Stadio Olimpico
England are up and running in Six Nations with a comfortable seven-try 15-46 win over Italy led by two-try cameos from Anthony Watson and Sam Simmonds on Sunday at Stadio Olimpico.
England started the game like a train and finished it with aplomb. Italy showed some nice touches in between, with some excellent performances on both sides.
Italy lock Alessandro Zanni made his 100th appearance for the national side today as he led his team out to the middle. The England back row missed some of it's high profile names, such as Billy Vunipola and Nathan Hughes as Exeter's Sam Simmonds was picked for No.8.
Owen Farrell started off the proceedings with a little grubber kick towards the Italian forwards. On the very first minute, Mike Brown fumbled a box kick from Marcello Violi under pressure from Sergio Parisse as Italy won a scrum on the half-way line.
However, as the Italian scrum collapsed, giving a penalty to England, Farrell kicked it to touch earning a line-out deep inside Italy's 22 thus giving England the first opportunity of the game.
England won the line-out as they played it swiftly through the hands before the ball reached Anthony Watson as he raced into the corner for a score on the 3rd minute.
Farrell failed to convert the try from a tight angle as his kick hit the post on the outside.
Just 10 minutes into the tournament, England suffered a nasty injury blow as Ben Youngs badly twisted his knee after an awkward collision after the ruck. Danny Care replaced Youngs, who was stretchered off the field.
The game resumed with a scrum to England as once again England played it through the hands with lightning speed and Watson grounded it in the corner. It was both outrageous attacking guile and terrible defending as England moved it wide quickly and cleanly before Watson finished it superbly.
Farrell once again failed to make the conversion, this time pulling it left.
On the 20th minute, the Italians showed great poise, working the ball right, taking the contact, edging forward as Tommaso Allan lofted a wonderful pass out to Tommaso Benvenuti on the right wing, who evaded Jonny May to score the first try of the match for his side. Allan then went on to successfully convert with a 35-meter kick.
Italy after managning to get themselves back in the game, five minutes later found themselves to drift back out again as Farrell sped through a gaping hole in the Italy defence to score just left of the posts. Once again, the Italian midfield was all at sea.
Farrell successfully kicks his first points of the day.
On the 38th minute, Mike Brown gave away a penalty for a high tackle on opposite number Matteo Minozzi as Allan blasted a simple kick between the posts.
It was still a competitive game at the break with England leading only by 7 points but yet expected to pull away in the second half.
Watson was denied his third try of the match on the 46th minute as he dropped the ball just as he was tumbling over Italy’s try line. Minutes later, Italy were penalised for handling in the scrum as Farrell knocked over an easy three.
TMO denied Italy their second try on the 49th minute as referee Mathieu Raynal noticed a forward pass in the build-up.
A couple of minutes later, England won a line-out on the right flank and followed it with a quick maul, and a quick pop pass to Sam Simmonds, who sped off unimpeded, to score just right of the posts. Farrell's kick increased England's lead to 17 points.
Mattia Bellini on the 57th minute brought Italy back into the game after grounding it in the corner, digging his knees into the turf mere centimetres from the touchline. The referee went upstairs to the TMO but replays showed no clear reason for Mathieu Raynal to rule it out. Allan missed out on the kick.
If there was any doubt on the result after Bellini's try, George Ford's try on the 68th minute sealed the fate for England. Ford ripped a bullet pass to Farrell who broke the line beautifully before spinning it back to George Ford, who just about tumbled over the line before Benvenuti got to him. Farrell kicked the conversion.
Alec Hepburn made his England debut on the 73rd minute as the Exeter prop came on for Mako Vunipola.
A couple of minutes later, England scored their sixth try thanks to Simmonds, who was simply just too quick for Italy's defence as he sliced right through it. Farrell once again added the extras.
If six weren't enough, England went on to add their seventh try on the 77th minute, Simmonds teamed up substitute and club team-mate Jack Nowell with a popped pass on the right wing, who tiptoed down the sideline and scored in the corner.
Farrell failed to convert the final try but it was job done for England.
An emphatic victory for England in the end but the scoreline is a bit harsh on Italy, even if they did collapse somewhat in the last 10 minutes.
England now lead second-placed Wales on points difference after the opening weekend of the Six Nations.