England scored seven tries in an emphatic 52-11 victory over Italy on Saturday but their hopes of winning the Six Nations championship were dashed by Ireland's dramatic win in France.
England, hoping to cancel out Ireland's 49-point advantage in the standings, looked to be chasing a big score from the start and led 24-6 at half-time after two tries from Mike Brown, named man of the match for the third time in the tournament, and one for Owen Farrell, who again was faultless with eight out of eight kicks at goal.
Jack Nowell, with his first international try, Mako Vunipola and replacement centre Manu Tuilagi, in his first appearance for England in a year, crossed after the break as England looked on course for the huge win they needed to give them a chance of the title even in the case of an Irish victory in Paris.
However, an interception score by Italy's Leonardo Sarto after 68 minutes took the wind out of their sails. Captain Chris Robshaw finished on a high by claiming England's seventh at the death, but by then it was already too late for them to build the points advantage they needed - and Ireland will line up in Paris on Saturday evening knowing that a win will secure the Six Nations title.
Having scraped three narrow wins on their last three visits to Rome, it was another hugely impressive performance by Stuart Lancaster's team, who have eight points from four wins following a narrow opening-game defeat in Paris.
"We scored some great tries and came here and scored 50, not many teams do that," Lancaster told the BBC.
"I'm proud of the boys. We were not quite in our shape in the first half, there were some errors but we have a great squad developing and I am very proud.
"Overall we take the bigger picture - the Scotland, Ireland and Wales performances and I don't think many teams will come here and win like this."
Robshaw added: "Plus-50 points is what we wanted to do, it's just a shame we conceded that try. Now we just have to sit and wait.
"We were focused, ready and came here with the objective of getting 50. We left a few opportunities out there but that's one for another day. Unfortunately we conceded. If we hadn't we'd have been in a good position."
- Sports & Recreation
- Manu Tuilagi