Ireland announced their 6 Nations title ambitions in emphatic fashion after thumping Italy 56-19 at the Aviva Stadium. Joe Schmidt's side scored eight tries in total in a vastly improved performance from the opening round of the championship.
The home side were dominant throughout and easily claimed the bonus point victory by half-time. But Italy scored three late tries themselves and narrowly missed out on a bonus point of their own.
Loose Italy pay the price
Conor O'Shea's men arrived in Dublin off the back of a relatively strong showing at home to England last weekend. But they were lethargic in the opening 40 minutes and, starved of crucial possession, were made to pay by a rampant Irish side who scored four tries to lead 28-0 at half-time.
Ireland scored some fantastic tries throughout the rout - two of which came from interceptions and another against the run-of-play - which will no doubt make head coach Joe Schmidt bury the memories of a lacklustre opening round performance against France.
Conor Murray's try was the pick of the bunch and was indicative of the way Ireland wanted to play. The hands shown between Murray, Jacob Stockdale and Conan in the 15m channel on the blindside was hugely impressive and opened up Italy's defence with ease.
Italy's endeavour to run things in the second half eventually came off with some inventive rugby late in the game. They scored three tries through Tomasso Allen, Eduardo Gori and Matteo Monizzi, all of which were superbly constructed.
They went in search of a bonus point score with two minutes to go and it seemed like Mattia Bellini would get in. But Keith Earls' magnificent last-gasp tackle stopped Italian hopes and made Ireland - who may well have to rely on points difference come the end of the championship - breathe a sigh of relief.
Not breathing a sigh of relief will be Ireland's medical staff who will assess the severity of Robbie Henshaw's nasty looking injury as the centre crossed for his second try of the match. Henshaw appeared to suffer a dislocated elbow or shoulder in the process.
Ireland's blistering first half performance certainly put them on the front foot early doors. They ultimately ran riot in a one-sided affair with tries from Murray, Bundee Aki, Earls, Rory Best as well as a brace from both Jacob Stockdale and Henshaw.
Italy, to their credit battled all the way and will be disappointed not to secure at least a four-try bonus point in defeat.
Next for Italy is a trip down to Marseille to face France on Friday while Ireland receive Wales in Dublin.
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