England put six past plucky Italy
March 9, 2003
Man of the Match Josh Lewsey races away to score
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England scored a 40-5 victory over Italy at Twickenham to remain on course for the Grand Slam but they were made to work hard by their visitors after earlier threatening to run riot.
England coach Clive Woodward was also given a glimpse into an unenviable future when injuries to Jonny Wilkinson and Charlie Hodgson left him without a recognised flyhalf for much of the second half.
Despite concerns about who could fill the No.10 shirt, Woodward will be delighted with the emergence of Josh Lewsey as a genuine contender for England regular Jason Robinson's No.15 shirt.
Woodward's side raced out of the starting blocks to notch five tries after just 22 minutes as they threatened to rack upa cricket score.
But to their credit the Italians dug deep for the remainder of the half and had England pinned inside their own half for long spells.
The Azzuri were unlucky not to open their account but England's defensive work was exemplary.
The intent of the home side was evident from the outset with forwards and backs looking lively, and skipper Jonny Wilkinson opting to kick for position rather than take a shot at three points on a couple of occasions.
England's first try came from fullback Josh Lewsey who making his first appearance at Twickenham. England's backline stretched their visitors before the ball was worked wide to the Wasps man who had time and space to dot down and Jonny Wilkinson slotted the extras.
Hooker Steve Thompson was the next to breach the line, burrowing over from a ruck a couple of metres out and Wilkinson again added the conversion.
Gloucester paceman James Simpson-Daniel grabbed the third five-pointer of the day. Italy once again coughed up possession cheaply on halfway, Lewsey again was involved before popping theball to Simpson-Daniel to stroll in under the posts.
Lewsey grabbed his second try shortly after, breaking a poor tackle on halfway before turning Italy fullback Mirco Bergamasco inside then out before racing away to score. Wilkinson grabbed his fourth conversion and the game was barely a quarter of an hour old.
Centre Mike Tindall, recalled to the side today, grabbed the fifth try. From an attacking scrum scrum-half Matt Dawson broke a couple of tackles before feeding the Bath man who crashed over in the corner. Wilkinson, battling to master a stiff breeze, failed to make the converson this time.
Italy's determination to prevent a rout soon became apparent once they had shaken off the shock of their host's blistering start.
But despite their endeavours they were unable to trouble the scorer before the break thanks largely to some resilient defensive work.
The Italians began the second half in the manner they ended the first and controlled the game giving England very little ball and opportunity to let rip once again.
England were dealt a scare when Wilkinson was forced from the field with a shoulder injury shortly after the break to be replaced by Charlie Hodgson.
Wilkinson's departure also proved a significant moment for Lawrence Dallaglio who returned to the role of England's leader for the first time since the tabloid scandal that saw him stripped of the honour.
But his contribution only lasted a few minutes before he had to be replaced himself with a knee injury.
The backline re-jig saw Will Greenwood step into the fly-half spot with centre Ollie Smith entering the fray to earn his first cap.
John Kirwan's side finally got some reward for their efforts on the hour when Mirco Bergamasco touched down in the corner to the delight of the travelling contingent.
A succession of drives inside the 22 tied up the England defence before the ball was worked wide to Bergamasco who held off the challenge of Dan Luger to grab the five pointer. Pez was unable to add the extras.
More changes from Clive Woodward saw Mike Worsley also get his first cap as he attempted to answer the call of the crowd to respond to the Italian pressure.
England struggled to find their rhythm without their two recognised playmakers, but a moment of magic from debutant Smith cut the Italains wide open and after drawing the tackle he released Luger to race away for England's sixth try of the day. Stand in kicker Dawson slotted over the extras.
Another injury, this time to Lewsey saw another re-jig with Bracken going onto the wing and Simpson-Daniel dropping to fullback.
Try as they might, England were unable to add to their tally despite showing plenty of onvention that was missing for much of the game.
Italy will have many positves to draw on from this game and they rightly held their heads high after this game after troubling their hosts for long periods.
England will be delighted with the result as they remain on course for a Grand Slam showdown in Dublin with Ireland but their overall performance was disappointing after threatening to run riot early on.
RBS Man of the Match - Josh Lewsey (England)
England: 40 Tries: Lewsey (2), Thompson, Simpson-Daniel, Tindall, Luger Con: Wilkinson (3), Dawson
Italy: 5 Try: Bergamasco