Six Nations Breakdown: Ireland turn on the style and England make life difficult for themselves

Ireland routed Italy with a fantastic display of attacking rugby, while late scores from Wales gave England a fright

Ireland, Italy, Six Nations,

Image: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Ireland and Italy met in the Six Nations on Saturday as Joe Schmidt's side went in search of their first win, while England hoped to keep their Grand Slam dream alive. 

Ireland taste victory

There was finally some good news for Ireland in this year's Six Nations as they routed Italy with a performance that showed the clinical edge that the side have lacked in the other games in this tournament

Ireland started the game on the back foot however as Italy managed to create an opening and almost touched down, only for the fact that the touch judge ruled Gonzalo Garcia's foot was in touch. That brought Schmidt's side to life as they struck back with a break from Jared Payne, who offloaded to Andrew Trimble to cross the line for the try. 

From there, Ireland went on to cross the line again and again, racking up over 50 points with tries from CJ Stander, Jared Payne, Sean Cronin, Ian Madigan Fergus McFadden and two from Jamie Heaslip.

The pick of the bunch saw Jamie Heaslip cross the line for the try after a beautiful passage of play involving some fantastic offloading from Ireland, as they almost worked their way up the length of the pitch. The resulting try is a contender for the best of the tournament, without doubt.

Despite a brilliant display on Saturday, the consensus is that Simon Zebo may not be back in at 15. Speaking on Off The Ball, Trevor Hogan felt that Rob Kearney was still in the driving seat on that front, while George Hook felt that Schmidt will not change his ways and opt for a more defensively solid player. 

England give themselves a nervous finish

The Triple Crown almost slipped from the grasp of Eddie Jones' side as they had a commanding lead well into the second half, before easing off a little too much in the closing stages.

England exploded into life early in the game, and Wales looked to be struggling badly to deal with the direct running and, in particular, the performance of Maro Itoje, who was deservedly named the man of the match.

He was everywhere and anywhere he was needed on the pitch, and after Owen Farrell had slotted over three kicks to give his side a nine point lead, it was was Itoje's break and offload that created the space for Anthony Watson to touch down over the line. 

England had a commanding 16-0 lead at the break, and they added to that once hostilities resumed in the second half, as Farrell put over another penalty before Wales touched down for their first try of the match through Dan Biggar. 

They looked to be dead and buried when Farrell added two more penalties to put even more daylight between the sides, but all of a sudden Wales came to life after Dan Cole was sent to the sin bin for England, as they crossed the line for a somewhat unexpected try through George North. 

Rhys Priestland made the conversion, and closed the gap again, while it was North's powerful running that set up another score just minutes later as Wales once again stormed into English territory.

The ball eventually found its way to the opposite side of the pitch, where Taulupe Faletau stormed over the line. Another conversion from Priestland made it 25-21 with just minutes left to go, but Wales were unable to find that last try to complete an improbable comeback.