36 - 11
(Half Time 22 - 6)
Sat 7th Feb 09, 15:00
Referee: Mark Lawrence
7 February 2009, 5:19 pm
England take opening victory
England cruised to an opening 36-11 RBS 6 Nations victory over Italy but the jury remains out on their championship ambitions after a dismal day at Twickenham.
Italy offered nothing in opposition and their experiment at playing flanker Mauro Bergamasco at scrum-half backfired spectacularly.
Bergamasco lasted just 40 minutes and by then he had directly gifted Riki Flutey his first Test try and England were 22-6 ahead.
Andy Goode marked his return to the international stage after two years out with a clever try after just 95 seconds but did little to suggest he is the long-term answer at fly-half.
Scrum-half Harry Ellis scored once in each half before the Italians engineered a consolation try for Mirco Bergamasco.
Mark Cueto ensured England finished on a relative high by marking an impressive individual performance with a try in the corner.
James Haskell blotted an eye-catching performance with another sin-binning, just before the interval for a trip on Gonzalo Canale but in a match against such limited opposition it was never going to cost England.
Goode made an immediate impact and scored his first Test try in 10 appearances after beating Italian full-back Andrea Masi to his own grubber kick.
He missed a long-range penalty and Italy fly-half Andrea Marcato pulled a more simple shot wide moments after suffering a bang to the head.
Cueto launched a counter-attack with a break past centre Gonzalo Garcia and inside pass to Delon Armitage.
Italy halted the attack illegally and although Goode missed a second penalty shot, England were soon on the scoreboard with an opportunist try from Ellis.
Marcato fielded a kick from Cueto but the ball squirted out the back of the Italian ruck and Haskell flicked it up for Ellis to scamper 15 yards down the line and brush off Masi’s tackle to score in the left corner.
That it was Haskell who was on hand to supply the pass to Ellis was no surprise. The Wasps flanker was everywhere, enjoying one of his best games for England.
He crashed over the gainline with every carry and made key tackles in defence, although Italy’s one-dimensional attack was not at all difficult to read with Bergamasco at scrum-half.
And Bergamasco gifted England their third try after just 28 minutes when he sent a horrible, looping pass over the head of inside centre Gonzalo Garcia.
Italy coach Nick Mallett finally called time on the Bergamasco experiment at half-time and sent on the inexperienced Giulio Toniolatti for his second Test appearance.
Marcato had been down injured when Flutey scored and was replaced by Australian-born fly-half Luke McLean, who finally kicked Italy onto the board with two penalties before the interval.
England finished the half down to 14 men after Haskell was sin-binned for a trip on Canale as the centre tried to chase his own chip.
The second half was dire. Goode pulled a drop-goal effort wide from 30 metres after England simply ran out of attacking options.
Five minutes later England did create an opening on halfway, with a neat inside ball from Flutey to Ellis who beat Robertson and sprinted clear to score his second try of the game.
England received a let-off when Italian flanker Alessandro Zanni charged down Delon Armitage’s clearance on the edge of the 22 but then knocked the ball on as he tried to regather.
Shane Geraghty came off the bench but was soon sin-binned after taking out McLean in the air.
Italy finally crossed the England try-line through Mirco Bergamasco after McLean, probably the Azzuri’s brightest player, had launched a counter-attack from Goode’s kick before Cueto’s try rounded off the afternoon.