Six Nations - England destroy Italy at Twickenham

Sat, 12 Feb 16:16:00 2011

England overran Italy with a scintillating Twickenham performance to win 59-13 and move two points clear at the summit of the Six Nations table.

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Chris Ashton ran in four tries for the hosts with Mark Cueto, Mike Tindall, Danny Care and James Haskell making it eight for England.

Toby Flood and second-half replacement at fly-half Jonny Wilkinson sent over every kick while Fabio Ongaro scored a late consolation for the visitors, with wing Mirco Bergamasco converting and kicking two penalties.

Ashton, who becomes the first player to score four tries in a Six Nations game and first England international to manage the feat since Ronald Poulton against France in Paris in 1914, was named man of the match.

It was an electric start at HQ. Ben Foden found Ben Youngs deep in home territory and the scrum-half popped the ball to Flood, who broke through the Italy ranks with ease.

Ashton hared up to support him near halfway and raced away to score only a few seconds after the two-minute mark.

The wing had been reprimanded by manager Martin Johnson for his 'swallow dive' while scoring against Wales - but so jubilant was he, he opted to do it again (pictured).

If there was a downside to this performance it was the first-half indiscipline in the ruck which allowed Bergamasco to keep Italy in range in between the flowing home attacks.

After he made the score 7-3 Flood sent over a penalty himself, with hooker Dylan Hartley unlucky before that not to collect the ball cleanly and score. However Bergamasco was soon given another chance - and took it for 10-6.

The ball-in-hand rugby from England - Tindall was also very close to finishing a Youngs/Flood foray forward - came with one warning when the Italy No.11 intercepted a pass under his posts and looked to be away. However Bergamasco was caught around halfway and forced to check inside.

A minute later England had a crucial score. Shontayne Hape broke a tackle and was stopped before the tryline, but Ashton was there to receive the ball, spin and cross.

That was in the 25th minute and by the half-hour mark England had another, this time from the try-starved Mark Cueto. A series of clever reverse passes and offloads from Hartley, Youngs and Flood gave him the chance.

Flood, who like Wilkinson did not have any especially difficult kicks, picked himself up from a late tackle to convert once more.

On 35 minutes Nick Easter was fed from the England lineout and he found Tindall, who - following the conversion - helped England to a 31-6 half-time scoreline.

Soon into the second period, Martin Castrogiovanni was yellow-carded for slapping the ball away as England tried to take a quick set-piece. Italy seemed set to see out the 10 minutes without conceding before Ashton completed his hat-trick.

With Italy tiring, James Haskell made up key ground before Easter fed substitute Matt Banahan, who almost crossed the line. Ashton was there to go the extra yard, and Flood converted.

With changes made, a sixth try soon followed: the home forward set up the attack and replacement Danny Care, showing his fresh legs, picked up to dart through and score. Fellow sub Jonny Wilkinson sent over his first points on his 82nd cap.

A flurry of further changes then saw the game slow down somewhat, until Italy secured their score. Winning a penalty, they kicked to the corner, won the lineout - no mean feat on a day when England dominated the set-pieces - and drove over for replacement Ongaro to score within a heap of bodies.

Bergamasco converted but his side were unable to stop an immediate reply from England: quick hands again from the hosts saw Hape feed Haskell at the sharp end of the attack, and he scrambled and slid his way to the line to touch down.

Ashton made it eight tries for England following good work by Banahan - Johnson chuckled at his second swallow dive of the afternoon - while Wilkinson's two conversions completed the rout.

However the veteran back saved his best for last: with the clock on 79 minutes and Italy destined to score in the corner through Andrea Masi, Wilkinson came from nowhere to knock him over with his head and shoulder and into touch.

The dazed fly-half got to his feet after receiving treatment to accolades from the fans - who surely enjoyed every minute of a top-quality performance at HQ.

Scotland host Wales at Murrayfield in the later game on Saturday.

Jonathan Symcox / Eurosport

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