England power past Italy
March 18, 2000
Matt Dawson races clear of the Italian defence
Austin Healey's nine minute second half hat trick took England to within a single win of the first Six Nations Grand Slam, finally killing off Italy's spirited resistance.
The Leicester wing's trio, scored between the 45th and 54th minute, were an impressively mixed bag. The first followed a fine combination between Lawrence Dallaglio, playing in the land of his father, and Matt Perry. The second was a superb individual effort, breaking down the middle before chipping ahead and beating the defence. The third saw him beating the cover to a cross-kick. There would have been a fourth had he not been jostled chasing a kick ahead. Instead Ben Cohen was first to the touch down. Cohen benefitted again in the 72nd minute, taking the scoring pass after Healey had surged down the left.
Skipper Matt Dawson added England's eighth and last score from a chaotic lineout close to the Italian line. Italy always looked dangerous with the ball in their hands with No.8 Andrea De Rossi the outstanding forward on either side, consistently making the hard yards. But they spent 30 minutes down to 14 men following three sin-binnings by the unimpressive referee. While they tackled ferociously, they were always vulnerable to England's sheer pace.
Romanian born Christian Stoica claimed their second-half try, before becoming their third sin-binning. In the first half Italy had rocked England with a superb try scored immediately after the championship leaders had gone into a rapid 6-0 lead with two penalties from Wilkinson. The Italians reclaimed Dominguez's artfully angled re-start kick and following a series of surges spearheaded by De Rossi, centre Luca Martin was driven over midway out on the right for Dominguez to add the conversion. The brawl which broke out immediately after the try was one of the series that disfigured the first-half. Referee Lewis sin-binned three players before half-time, Carlo Checchinato and Walter Cristofoletto of Italy and England's Garath Archer as he struggled to maintain order.
England were clearly unsettled by the sheer ferocity of Italy's resistance and the Italian should have gone further ahead after Archer's sin-binning in the 20th minute but the normally reliable Dominguez inexplicably pulled his penalty wide from in front of the posts, no more than 20 metres out. Italy, perhaps inevitably lost some momentum after this. Without reproducing the flowing form, displayed against Wales, England recaptured control and re-took the lead on 28 minutes when the referee awarded a penalty try after Healey had been tackled high close to the Italian line. Wilson converted.
England continued to press and two moments of opportunism took them into a 16 point lead by the break. First Neil Back chipped a neat close range drop goal then Dawson ever eager to take quick penalties took advantage of Italian inattention to cross and leave Wilkinson a simple conversion. Italy might have cut the interval lead but fullback Corrado Pilat, kicking because Dominguez had been shaken by a heavy tackle missed another simple penalty from in front of the posts.
Italy: Tries Martin, Stoica; Con: Dominguez
England: Tries Healey 3 Cohen 2 Dawson 2 Pen Try; Con: Wilkinson 5; Pen: Wikinson 2; D/Goal: Back
Half-time 7- 23
Referee Mr A. Lewis
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September