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Ireland made a hesitant start to the RBS 6 Nations with an unconvincing victory over Italy which failed to dispel lingering memories of their abysmal World Cup.
An encouraging opening from the Irish saw full-back Girvan Dempsey cross in the 18th minute after Ronan O'Gara had teed up Andrew Trimble with a clever chip.
O'Gara, who finished with 11 points, continued to pull the strings and kept the Triple Crown holders in command with his impressive half-back partner Eoin Reddan repeatedly shredding Italy's defence.
But dogged Italy stuck to their task and when skipper Sergio Parisse finished a 61st-minute lineout catch and drive, the match was blown wide open.
The Azzurri, favourites for the wooden spoon, edged ever closer to a remarkable upset through a David Bortolussi penalty but Ireland held on to escape a humiliating defeat
Ireland had talked all week of drawing a line in the sand after the World Cup and they appeared to be doing just that during a promising start.
An early turnover offered them the chance to launch a counter-attack and they responded superbly with Denis Leamy and O'Gara slipping through gaps close to the breakdown.
Brian O'Driscoll was on his own when the ball was spun right but a clever chip sent Italy scrambling backwards and Josh Sole was on hand to avert the danger when Trimble came up with the ball.
A penalty from O'Gara nudged Ireland ahead and they should have extended the lead in the 15th minute.
This time the crossfield kick worked out as planned with Murphy bursting into space only to direct his pass behind Dempsey as the Leinster full-back romped into open space.
And the same tactic paid dividends in the 18th minute when Ireland scored their first try through Trimble.
With inch-perfect precision O'Gara landed the ball in Trimble's hands and the Ulster winger rode Mauro Bergamasco's tackle before finding Dempsey, who dashed home. O'Gara landed the conversion to push Ireland 10-0 ahead.
Biarritz lock Santiago Dellape was sent to the sin-bin after appearing to throw a punch on the floor as Italy's discipline began to slip.
But far from buckling in the face of Dellape's absence, the Azzurri defended manfully and even produced a penalty through Bortolussi.
Ireland attacked from the restart, Reddan darting free from a line-out and O'Driscoll nearly wriggling his way through a congested midfield.
Italy frequently used cynical measures to halt the Irish attack and one such moment was punished by referee Jonathan Kaplan, with O'Gara obliging.
But Italy kept plugging away and barged over from a lineout catch and drive and after many replays the television match official Tim Hayes awarded the try.
Parisse was named as the scorer with the skipper emerging from beneath a pile of bodies but Bortolussi could not add the conversion.
O'Gara was more accurate with a penalty but Bortolussi had readjusted his sights and slashed the deficit to 16-11, setting up a tense finish.
A first missed kick from O'Gara failed to calm the nerves of home fans but Ireland held on to the ball well in the closing stages to preserve their lead.
"In the context of the 6 Nations I'm happy with that performance because it's the first game of the championship."
"The most positive thing was the attitude of the team and apart from one isolated incident I want to commend Sergio Parisse for the way he captained the side."