Ireland maintained their challenge for the RBS Six Nations title with a comfortable victory over Italy.

Both sides struggled in the very windy conditions but Ireland’s superior class saw them home.

They ran in three tries through Malcolm O’Kelly, Brian O’Driscoll and Shane Horgan, while Italy’s only points came from a Roland de Marigny penalty.

Ireland could still win the title, but they have a much worse points difference than England or France.

O’Driscoll’s try was his 24th for Ireland and saw him reclaim the Irish try-scoring record from Denis Hickie.

The match started in unusual fashion as Italy deliberately failed to send the kick-off the required 10 yards.

That gave Ireland, who had the wind at their backs in the first half, the put-in at the scrum, and when Italy collapsed O’Gara tried his luck with a penalty from halfway.

The ball drifted wide in the blustery conditions and it set the tone for a frustrating 20 minutes for the Irish.

They dominated territory and possession but could not get any points on the board as a combination of gritty Italian defence and Irish mistakes kept them at bay.

But just as Ireland began to grow frustrated Italy handed them the first score.

Replacement hooker Carlo Festuccia took a low throw-in at a line-out when his fellow forwards were not expecting it.

Unfortunately for Italy O’Kelly was and he pounced to open the Irish account after 26 minutes.

Seven minutes later O’Driscoll edged Ireland further ahead with his 24th try for Ireland.

When he received the ball there looked to be little on but the Irish captain cut back to the blind side and dummied his way over for a fine score.

O’Gara kicked an excellent conversion to make it 12-0 but before half-time the fly-half missed a very kickable penalty.

However, O’Gara redeemed himself 10 minutes into the second half, firing a flat pass across the Italy defence to send Horgan over by the posts. O’Gara’s conversion made it 19-0.

Italy spurned a glorious chance to hit back after 56 minutes when Denis Dallan dropped a pass a couple of yards from the tryline.

But with the wind at their backs Italy were looking more threatening and their hopes were boosted when O’Driscoll was sin-binned for a high tackle.

They finally got on the scoreboard after 67 minutes when Roland De Marigny slotted a penalty but that was that for the visitors.

They pounded away but could not break the Irish line, and it was the hosts who looked more incisive when they had the ball.

They launched a couple of long-range attacks but the strong wind meant they rarely got close enough to the Italian line to add to their tally.


Dempsey, Horgan, D’Arcy, O’Driscoll (capt), Murphy, O’Gara, Stringer; Corrigan, Byrne, Hayes, O’Kelly, O’Callaghan, Easterby, Gleeson, Foley.
Sheahan, Horan, Longwell, Costello, Humphreys, Easterby, Maggs.


Canale, Mazzucato, Stoica, Barbini, D Dallan; de Marigny, Griffen; Lo Cicero, Ongaro, Castrogiovanni, Checchinato, Bortolami, de Rossi (capt), Persico, Palmer.

Festuccia, Perugini, Dellape, Mandelli, Picone, Masi, Mi Bergamasco.