Reuters - Sun, 14 Feb 18:17:00 2010
England survived a scare to scrape a 17-12 victory over an obstinate Italy on Sunday and maintain their winning start to the Six Nations.
Mathew Tait (pictured) scored the only try six minutes into the second half and Jonny Wilkinson kicked a drop goal to seal the match after Italy had pulled within two points late on with Mirco Bergamasco's fourth successful penalty.
But it was a disappointing performance by England, 30-17 winners over Wales in their opener last week, especially for fly-half Wilkinson, who provided the other points but also missed three attempts at goal.
The hosts defended and spoiled well throughout and had the former world champions under pressure in the closing stages, but never really threatened to cross the try-line.
England almost scored in the first minute but the Italians just managed to clear a Delon Armitage chip across the try-line after Lewis Moody had recovered Wilkinson's kickoff.
The Azzurri had one of their best chances to go over minutes later but number eight Alessandro Zanni's attempt to offload went astray.
Wilkinson opened the score in the 10th minute with an easy penalty before wing Bergamasco replied in kind soon after.
The English cut through the midfield on a couple of occasions, but the hosts' cover held firm, with centre Gonzalo Garcia producing a fine try-saving tackle on Ugo Monye in the 16th minute.
England started to look frustrated and their problems were exemplified by Wilkinson missing two consecutive penalties, although he may have been distracted by a horn going off as he was taking the second from short range.
He gathered his composure to slot one over and send the sides in level at 6-6 at half time after Bergamasco had kicked Italy in front.
Tait claimed the score that was ultimately the difference between the teams soon after the break when Monye broke down the left with the help of a missed Andrea Masi tackle.
Wilkinson fluffed the conversion but, with his side still struggling to ignite, he managed to add three points to their lead after Italy prop Martin Castrogiovanni was given a yellow card for smothering the ball in a ruck.
Bergamasco kicked two goals to set up an exciting finish, although, even on a bad day, Wilkinson had the final word.