England built on their win at the Millennium Stadium last week with a try filled victory over Italy at Twickenham to retain their 100% record in this year’s 6 Nations Championship.
The star of the show was Northampton and England winger Chris Ashton who scored four tries against an Italy side that failed to build on their strong performance at home versus Ireland last week, allowing the home side to run out 59-13 winners.
Ashton opened the scoring early on as he went over for his first, celebrating with what has now become his customary “swallow dive” as he grounded the ball, this in spite of his manager, Martin Johnson, criticising him for the same celebration just a week ago.
Italy looked briefly as though they may stick in the match as Mirco Bergamasco slotted penalties, either side of one from Toby Flood, to get his side off the mark and in the process taking to score to 10-6.
If England had felt they needed to take their points as they came to them, from penalties and drop goals as England so often do so as to gain a foothold in matches, they were mistaken on this occasion. Shontayne Hape broke the Italy defence and Ashton was again on hand to go over the line and secure his and his side’s second try of the match.
Ashton’s wing partner Mark Cueto then got in on the act as a great piece of counter attacking running carved open the away side’s defence yet again and got the England team to within five metres of the try line. Flood took the ball flat from Ben Youngs before passing a quick ball back inside to Cueto on his shoulder who battered his way over for England’s third.
More support running set up England’s fourth try of the first half as Nick Easter, the number eight, this time broke the gain line and handed the ball to Gloucester centre Mike Tindall; and the England captain duly obliged as he got in on the act of scoring. That took the score to 31-6 at half time as England took all their chances against a sorry looking Italy backline.
Johnson made a plethora of changes in the second half, however they did not damped the English attack as they continued in the same vain as the first half.
Ashton, on fire in the first 40 minutes, started in a similar fashion in the second as Matt Banahan’s barraging run opened up space before he passed to Ashton who was again in support, thus allowing the Northampton flyer to score his hattrick.
Further England substitutes got in on the act of scoring as replacement scrum-half Danny Care scrambled over to score the sixth try of the match and fly-half Johnny Wilkinson, on in place of the mesmeric Flood, converted.
England may have felt they could relax with the match all but won with ten minutes to go. From this Italy summoned the strength to crash over the line through a strong looking rolling maul which resulted in Fabio Ongaro scoring a consolation try for the Azzurri.
Sensing that Johnson will have been fuming as his side gave away further points, England again went on the attack and James Haskell, playing in the slightly unfamiliar position of open-side flanker instead of blind-side, found some space and was able to exploit it. The Stade Francais player rounded two players before sliding over the line to add his name to the score sheet.
Where it may have been felt that the scoring was over with England sitting pretty at 52-13, Ashton had other plans as he cantered in for his fourth, the most tries scored by and England player in a match since Josh Lewsey ran in five against Uruguay during the group stages of the 2003 World Cup, after good running again by Banahan took the score to 59-13.
For England, they march on with two wins from two and will face France at Twickenham in two weeks’ time, while Italy, having looked so promising against Ireland last week, will take on Wales at the Stadio Flaminio next as they look to try and dodge the wooden spoon for the fourth successive year.