Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

England claim narrow Italy victory

England dug themselves out of a snow-hole in freezing Rome to beat Italy 19-15 with another charge-down try from Charlie Hodgson and Owen Farrell's perfect kicking display.

The Azzurri, who had never beaten England in 17 previous Test matches, profited from two Ben Foden mistakes in as many minutes at the end of the first half to claim a 12-6 lead. Wing Giovanbattista Venditti pounced on a loose ball to score in the corner and then centre Tommaso Benvenuti picked off a Foden pass on halfway to score under the posts.

Suddenly, a historic England defeat looked on the cards. A defeat that would have left interim coach Stuart Lancaster with tough questions to answer about his "new era", but Hodgson rescued England with his second charge-down try in as many weeks and Farrell completed a 14-point haul with four penalties and a tough conversion.

England eventually broke the deadlock with Farrell's first penalty after 26 minutes - but only after a mistake from referee Jerome Garces cost them a try. When Sergio Parisse's pass went to ground, David Strettle reacted quickest to toe the ball ahead but he went down after colliding with the retreating Italian fly-half Kristopher Burton.

It was debatable whether the collision between Strettle and Burton was a penalty at all but Farrell, took time to find his range at Murrayfield last week, slotted the kick.

Lorenzo Citadini came on and immediately found himself under pressure from the England scrum. Italy were penalised and Farrell landed his second kick, but England imploded with two mistakes in the space of two minutes to gift Italy the lead.

Foden could not hold onto a grubber kick, he collided with Ben Youngs and the ball fell to Venditti, who scored in the corner. England's full-back then compounded his mistake by forcing an offload on the half-way line, which was picked off by Benvenuti who scorched under the posts for a converted try.

Burton missed with a drop-goal attempt but landed a penalty as England made an ill-disciplined start to the second half. England had to respond - and they did so with Hodgson scoring his second charge-down try in as many weeks.

After scoring the decisive touchdown against Scotland last week, Hodgson blocked Andrea Masi's clearance from inside the Italian 22, regathered and scored. Farrell landed a crucial conversion from wide on the left and then, after 54 minutes, a penalty from in front of the posts as England regained the lead.

England's scrum delivered for them again, winning a penalty under the posts which Farrell landed with ease as England held out for another narrow victory.


From Belfast Telegraph