Ireland canter past 12-man Italy

Ireland celebrate Michael Lowry's try
Michael Lowry marked his international debut with two tries
Irish (24) 57
Tries: Carbery, Gibson-Park, Lowry 2, O’Mahony, Lowe 2, Baird, Treadwell Cons: Carbery 2, Sexton 4
Italian (6) 6
I thought: Garbisi 2

Debutant Michael Lowry scored two tries as Ireland condemned 12-man Italy to a 100th Six Nations defeat in Dublin.

The hosts played with a two-man advantage for 60 minutes after Italian replacement hooker Hame Faiva was sent off midway through the first half.

His dismissal prompted uncontested scrums, which forced Italy to take off another player.

And the visitors finished the game with 12 men after Braam Steyn’s late yellow card.

Ireland took full advantage of their numerical superiority, running in nine tries to increase their points difference as they bounced back from their defeat in Paris two weeks ago.

The double-whammy of losing two players after just a quarter of the game meant Italy never had a hope of avoiding the grim landmark of a century of tournament defeats.

The Azzurri remain without a win in the competition since 2015 having lost their last 35 fixtures, while Ireland turned their attentions to Twickenham in two weeks’ time.

Italy reduced to 13 men after opening quarter

The respective form of both sides going into Sunday’s contest suggested Italy had little more than a puncher’s chance of winning. It would have taken a remarkable 80 minutes for them to leave Dublin with a win – after 20 minutes it would have taken multiple miracles.

Having been brought on to replace the injured Gianmarco Lucchesi, replacement hooker Faiva was shown red for making contact with the head of Dan Sheehan.

With no other hooker to replace Faiva, referee Nika Amashukeli called for uncontested scrums. As the side that forced uncontested scrums, Italy not only lost Faiva but had to nominate another player (in this case number eight Toa Halafihi) to leave the field.

Italy's Hame Faiva is shown a red card
Hame Faiva’s red card effectively ended the game as a contest after 20 minutes

The realization that the game was over as a contest immediately hit all inside the Aviva Stadium. A shame given the opening quarter had been a thoroughly competitive affair with Italy’s defense giving as good as it got.

Joey Carbery’s fourth minute try aside, Ireland had struggled to control the contest.

With a two-man advantage it was a different story, and space to run into was no longer at a premium.

Ireland scored three more tries to secure the bonus point before the break. The loudest cheer was reserved for debutant Lowry, who showed the quick feet that have made him a crowd favorite at Ulster to jink his way into space before finishing.

Jamison Gibson-Park and captain Peter O’Mahony also crossed as Ireland put the game out of sight by the interval.

Irish struggle for rhythm in attack

Given the situation, neither side can take any great learnings from the game – although Italy will be pleased with how they battled while Ireland will know a far sharper attacking performance is required if they are to leave Twickenham with a win in a fortnight.

Italy competed doggedly at the breakdown and had the chance to score the first points of the second half, only for Paolo Garbisi to push his penalty wide.

Unable to establish dominance at the depowered scrum, Ireland perhaps understandably failed to find a rhythm in a game they were never going to lose.

Still, the tries continued to come at irregular intervals – with Lowe strolling across the line having been found in acres of space by Gibson-Park.

The two-try display of Lowry was a highlight for the hosts. Typically elusive with the ball, the 23-year-old profited from the increased space on offer to collect Johnny Sexton’s pass, throw a dummy and slide in for his second.

Lowry was one of six changes made by Andy Farrell from the defeat in Paris and one of three players making his first Six Nations start. Another was lock Ryan Baird, who scored Ireland’s seventh try when he charged down Alessandro Fusco’s box kick on the hour mark.

Italy had been in damage limitation mode since the 20th minute, meaning the space that was opening up as the game went on was hardly a surprise.

In a desperate attempt to stop Mack Hansen adding another score, Braam Steyn deliberately knocked the ball forward into touch – receiving a yellow card in the 75th minute to see his side go down to just 12 men.

Ireland scored twice more in the remaining five minutes – first through Lowe who gratefully accepted Lowry’s selfless pass when the full-back could easily have backed himself for hat-trick.

The final punch game from replacement lock Kieran Treadwell, who drove over in the last passage of play for his side’s ninth try.

More to follow.

Ireland: Lowry; Hansen, Ringrose, Henshaw, Lowe; Carbery, Gibson-Park; Porter, Sheehan, Furlong, Beirne, Baird; O’Mahony, van der Flier, Doris.

Replacements: Herring, Kilcoyne, Bealham, Treadwell, Conan, Casey, Sexton, Hume.

Italy: Padovani; Bruno, Brex, Marin, Ioane; Garbisi, Varney; Fischetti, Lucchesi, Ceccarelli, Cannone, Ruzza, Pettinelli, Lamaro (capt), Halafihi.

Replacements: Faiva, Nemer, Pasquali, Sisi, Zuliani, Steyn, Fusco, Zanon.

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