Six Nations 2014: England hammer Italy and wait on Ireland

By Tom FordyceChief sports writer in Rome
Six Nations 2014: Italy 11-52 England - highlights

England failed to beat Ireland to the Six Nations title despite a thumping victory over an error-ridden Italy.

They fell short of the required 51-point winning margin, meaning Ireland's win over France in Paris secured the Championship.

But they ended their campaign on a high after running in seven tries against a side which had held them to a combined margin of 13 points in their previous three victories in Rome.

Two tries from the exceptional Mike Brown and one apiece for Owen Farrell, Jack Nowell, Manu Tuilagi, Mako Vunipola and skipper Chris Robshaw blew the disappointing hosts away, with Farrell converting all seven and adding a penalty in a fine display.

Stuart Lancaster's side finish second, losing out to Ireland on points difference, with both teams winning four of their five matches.

England's match was the first of the day's final Six Nations fixtures, and they left the field knowing their winning margin was not enough to overhaul Ireland should they be victorious in Paris. But Lancaster's men retained the hope that a France victory would hand them the Championship.

Thoughts will inevitably turn to the late try conceded against France at the tournament's start which ultimately cost Lancaster's men a tilt at a Grand Slam.

But even with considerable room for improvement there is a clear sense of a side in the ascendant, and England will approach the sterner test of their New Zealand tour in far better shape than they began the year.

Luciano Orquera and Farrell traded early penalties in a messy opening, but it was Brown, England's stand-out player of the tournament, who once again set his side on their way.

Italy made a mess of a line-out in their own 22, Luther Burrell smashed down the middle and Brown took his pass at pace to hand off Michele Campagnaro and hare down the left wing and into the corner.

Farrell's accuracy from out wide made it 10-3, but sloppy handling in the backs cost two further opportunities and almost set Leonardo Sarto clear from halfway, Farrell's critical covering tackle hauling him down three metres from the English line.

Orquera landed a beauty of a penalty from distance and the Stadio Olimpico roared in expectation, but it was the visitors instead who struck decisively as the contest settled.

Manu Tuilagi (left) and Jack Nowell celebrate an England try
Tuilagi (left) and Nowell - the latter with his first Test try - both scored for England in Rome

A Danny Care break down the middle set up a series of sorties at the Italian line, and after a penalty was kicked to the corner and Burrell punched holes down the right, Care danced left off a ruck and found the on-rushing Farrell cutting a sweet angle at pace to fly in from five metres.

Farrell, faultless with the boot all day, then showcased his burgeoning all-round reputation with an outside break and off-load to Brown just before half-time to send the full-back away for his second try of the half, and the Saracens 10 drilled over the conversion that followed for a 24-6 lead at the interval.

It left England needing five unanswered converted tries to overhaul Ireland's huge points differential advantage, but only a spilled take from Angelo Esposito prevented them from conceding a score after Campagnaro had escaped Burrell's clutches to break down the right.

Errors continued to halt England's charge, with Farrell's pass slightly too far in front of Vunipola as the massive prop charged at the retreating Italian defence and Burrell having the ball kicked from his grasp as he reached for the line from a tapped penalty.

But the pressure told with just under half an hour to go when Marco Bortalami was sent to the sin-bin and England exploited the man advantage to put Nowell over from close in for the teenager's first international score.

Lancaster threw on his heavyweight replacement Tuilagi for the unfortunate Burrell, and with Italian bodies wilting in the springtime heat the gaps began to grow.

The fifth try came when Nowell and Brown combined with sweet hands, Tuilagi hammered another chunk from the Italian defence and Billy Twelvetrees curved past two weary defenders before the 20-stone Vunipola seized his clever offload to thunder over for England's fifth try.

With Farrell's conversion making it 38-6 and a quarter of the match to come England sensed the opportunity to pile pressure on Irish shoulders in Paris.

On came fresh legs at scrum-half and blind-side in Lee Dickson and Tom Johnson, and on smashed Tuilagi. He ran through two men to dot down under the posts, Farrell popped over the extras and the lead had stretched to 39.

Italy looked spent. But Joe Launchbury was picked off looking to run the ball from deep, with Sarto intercepting to sprint into the corner, and the momentum was lost.

Only with the clock in red did another score come, late replacement George Ford giving notice of his rich promise at fly-half with a smart break to release Robshaw.

But the damage had been done, and as attention turned to the Stade de France and Ireland's bid to beat France in the final game of the 2014 Six Nations later on Saturday, England's lap of honour told a tale of a side who had done as much as they could.

Team line-ups

Italy: McLean; Esposito, Campagnaro, Garcia, Sarto; Orquera, Tebaldi; Aguero, Ghiraldini, Cittadini, Geldenhuys, Bortolami, Furno, Barbieri, Parisse, Derbyshire.

Replacements: Masi for Garcia (73), Allan for Orquera (44), Rizzo for Aguero (47), De Marchi for Cittadini (47), Derbyshire for Furno (56), Biagi for Derbyshire (61).

Not Used: Giazzon, Gori.

Sin Bin: Bortolami (51).

England: Brown; Nowell, Burrell, Twelvetrees, May; Farrell, Care; M Vunipola, Hartley, Wilson, Launchbury, Lawes, Wood, Robshaw, Morgan.

Replacements: Tuilagi for Burrell (54), Ford for Twelvetrees (71), Dickson for Care (67), Mullan for M Vunipola (76), T Youngs for Hartley (54), Thomas for Wilson (71), Attwood for Launchbury (71), Johnson for Wood (67).

Att: 57,750

Ref: Pascal Gauzere (France).