England 57-14 Italy: Eight-try England keep Six Nation title hopes alive
|Six Nations: England v Italy|
|England (31) 57|
|Tries: George, May, Tuilagi 2, Shields 2, Kruis, Robson Pen: Farrell Cons: Farrell 4, Ford 3|
|Italy (7) 14|
|Tries: Allan, Morisi Cons: Allan 2|
England's heavyweights battered sorry Italy into submission as they racked up eight tries to keep their title hopes alive.
Manu Tuilagi's brace either side of half-time capped a dominant performance from the centre as Eddie Jones' men kept their unblemished record against the Azzuri intact.
With winger Joe Cokanasiga rampant and flanker Brad Shields bagging two tries of his own, Italy had no answer to England's big ball carriers.
Tries for Tommaso Allen and Luca Morisi were scant consolation for Conor O'Shea's struggling team in a game that only seldom became a genuine contest.
It means England will go into the final weekend with a shot at winning the Six Nations Championship, although they will need Grand Slam-chasing Wales to lose to Ireland in Cardiff before beating Scotland to pull it off.
For Italy it was another chastening afternoon, their 25th defeat by England in 25 meetings and their hunt for a win in this tournament now stretching back four years.
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Allen's try in the corner and conversion from out wide had levelled things up early after Jamie George rumbled over from a driving maul. But England's big men were only just getting started.
Cokanasiga had been running riot down the right wing, yet the second try came as Elliot Daly sliced through down the left to set Jonny May away, then Tuilagi crashed through Angelo Esposito on an outside break to canter 40 metres for his team's third.
It was Tuilagi's first try for England in five years, and it was his strength and footwork that burst open the visitors' defence once again before he found Shields galloping away on his inside.
With Italy first losing Wasps centre Michele Campagnaro to injury and then his replacement Tommaso Castello, and Owen Farrell five from five with the boot, England were 31-7 up with almost an hour still to play.
Only three times have England ever scored more first-half points in a Five or Six Nations game, a sorry statistic for the visitors in a week when relegation from this tournament was openly discussed once again.
Half-century up as Italy crumble
It could have been far worse. Daly counter-attacked from deep before Cokanasiga smashed his way to within two metres of the try-line, and when Farrell switched the point of attack Tuliagi ran on to George's neat looped pass for his second.
But scoring points has not been the principal problem for this Italy side - they had bagged at least 15 points in their previous four games in the competition - and after a series of drives from the forwards, Allen's pass found Morisi in unguarded space on the left wing for another try.
As the atmosphere fell flat the game then became mired in mistakes, England's intensity and execution dropping away just as it had in the second half against France before they roused themselves once again.
England's sixth try came from another Italian error when George Kruis charged down full-back Jayden Hayward's clearing kick, replacement fly-half George Ford landing the conversion for 43-14.
Replacement scrum-half Dan Robson had to wait until the final quarter for his belated chance, but profited from another break from Daly and Cokanasiga as he ran a sweet supporting line to touch down unopposed.
Kruis then charged down scrum-half Tito Tebaldi in front of the Italian posts to gift Shields his second try of the afternoon.
Man of the match - Joe Cokanasiga
Former England fly-half Paul Grayson on BBC Radio 5 Live: "The vast majority of the stadium will be happy to see England win and not necessarily share the frustrations about Italy.
"There's been some excellent rugby from England, albeit against very ordinary opposition.
"Ellis Genge was really good. He was disciplined and carried the ball when it was his opportunity. His work-rate and positioning were really good so he's pushed himself forward.
"On the other side, Brad Shields has still got some work to do. He'll be desperate for a big international performance at some point."
Former World Cup-winning scrum-half Matt Dawson on BBC Radio 5 live: "There are plenty of big, powerful rugby players around the world but with Tuilagi, his ability to change direction gets him out of those half-tackles.
"You've got to hit him hard or he's going to get out. One hand on his hip is not going to bring Manu Tuilagi down."
* Wales will be awarded three bonus points if they beat Ireland and secure the Grand Slam
England: Daly, Cokanasiga, Tuilagi, Te'o, May, Farrell (capt), Youngs; Genge, George, Sinckler, Launchbury, Kruis, Shields, Curry, Vunipola.
Replacements: Cowan-Dickie for George (59), Moon for Genge (59), Cole for Sinckler (56), Hughes for Launchbury (66), Wilson for Curry (56), Robson for Youngs (62), Ford for Farrell (62), Slade for Tuilagi (62).
Italy: Hayward, Padovani, Campagnaro, Morisi, Esposito, Allan, Tebaldi; Lovotti, Bigi, Ferrari, Ruzza, Budd, Negri, Steyn, Parisse (capt).
Replacements: Ghiraldini for Bigi (49), Traore for Lovotti (49), Pasquali, Sisi for Budd (49), Polledri for Negri Da Oleggio (49), Palazzani for Morisi (62), McKinley, Castello.