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Tuesday 26 March 2019

Irish limp home after Rome battle

Italy 16 Ireland 26

KEY SCORE: Conor Murray of Ireland celebrates after scoring his side’s fourth try during the
Six Nations match against Italy at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Photo: Sportsfile
KEY SCORE: Conor Murray of Ireland celebrates after scoring his side’s fourth try during the Six Nations match against Italy at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Photo: Sportsfile

Ireland were inaccurate and inadequate in limping to the expected bonus-point victory over Italy at the Stadio Olimpico.

The super-human effort Wales applied in Cardiff blew the Six Nations championship open.

The previously infallible English were worn down by their hosts relentless passion and pressure.

It meant Ireland had more to play for than they might have presumed.

They just couldn't reach anywhere near the standards they have set for themselves.

"I will just say there was relief at the end of it. It's done," said coach Joe Schmidt afterwards.

"We got our five points and that's what we came here for. But we were too inaccurate."

Hooker Sean Cronin's first Six Nations start did not go to plan, Ireland faltering at the lineout to concede precious possession.

"We are normally nailed on at the set-piece and we just didn't quite get that set-piece flow of ball."

Away from there, the collective malaise led to an error-ridden performance, where players capable of so much better made basic mistakes.

"When we did get it, we put passes down. Suddenly, when it looks like a score (for us), it becomes an opportunity for them."

"It is uncharacteristic for us. We don't normally give up those balls. We will have a look at it and try to reconcile a few things.

"I can't put my finger on it, at the moment," he said.

"But we're going to have to sort a few things out because I thought they were pretty impressive and, obviously, Wales were immense at home and we have to go to Cardiff."

It took longer that it should have for Ireland to find their rhythm, started by phase play - Tadhg Furlong's offload, the hard lines from Jacob Stockdale and Chris Farrell and Quinn Roux's power to the post, Sexton converting in the 13th minute.

A chorus of Italian carries concluded with Tito Tebaldi going close, referee Glen Jackson coming back for a penalty Allan knocked through in the 20th minute.

A calamitous miscommunication at the restart gifted the ball to Stockdale, the left wing accelerating away from Maxime Mbanda for his 14th try in 17 internationals.

Sexton's uncharacteristic over-hit 22 invited Italy to come forward for Allan to strike three points from the tee in the 26th minute.

Then wing Edoardo Padovani and centre Luca Morisi struck for two tries in five minutes and a 16-12 lead at the break.

It took the footwork of Earls to crack the cover for Conor Murray to nail the conversion in the 52nd minute.

A monster maul was the solution, Murray reaching out for the bonus point and converting in the 68th minute.

However, there is something seriously amiss with Ireland and they have to figure out what it is in double-quick time for France in two weeks.

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