Italy vs. England: Score, Video Highlights and Reaction for Six Nations 2014

Dan BrettContributor IIIMarch 15, 2014

England's Mike Brown, right, and teammate Luther Burrell walk on the pitch at the end of the Six Nations international rugby union match between Italy and England at Rome's Olympic stadium, Saturday, March 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Gregorio Borgia/Associated Press

England moved into touching distance of lifting the Six Nations trophy after a 52-11 victory against Italy at the Stadio Olimpico.

Stuart Lancaster's side had to win in Rome to ensure they had a chance of clinching the top spot, with France and Ireland in action in the tournament's final fixture.

Italy struck first as they looked to avoid the wooden spoon, but England had eight kicks from Owen Farrell to thank on a hot afternoon as they reached a half century against Jacques Brunel's men:

England's nerves showed in the opening exchanges, as Mike Brown made an early mistake with knocking on another up-and-under kick to gain the hosts a scrum, which England failed to deal with, resulting in a home penalty.

Luciano Orquera struck on six minutes to put his side ahead, but it wasn't long until the visitors got back into the game and showed their character, winning a penalty that was dispatched with aplomb by Farrell.

Another excellent opening spell from Brown saw him score two first-half tries to increase his side's lead, with Farrell on hand in trademark fashion to ensure that extra points were put on the board.

Gregorio Borgia/Associated Press

With a 24-6 lead at the interval, the match already looked won for England, but with a points total of 50 in mind, the visitors had to keep pressure on the Italians to offer the best chance of title success.

That's exactly what England managed, too, as two tries from 20-year-old Jack Nowell propelled his side even further into the lead and gave Farrell another couple of opportunities to stake his claim to become the tournament's top points-scorer.

Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press

Mako Vunipola then added to Brunel's woes with a try of his own on the hour mark—once again followed by Farrell's brilliance—before Manu Tuilagi marked his comeback from injury to touch down.

Captain Chris Robshaw then ensured the 50-point total breach in added time as he scored the final try for the visitors. Farrell bagged his seventh conversion of the match to record the side's 52-11 victory, consigning Brunel's men to their 10th wooden spoon finish.

Despite victory, Daily Mail's Chris Foy tweeted a harrowing reminder that the title isn't sewn up just yet:

Speaking after the game, Lancaster pinpointed a poor first half for England but noted the squad's long-term future as his side romped to victory in Rome, according to The Telegraph's Oliver Pickup:

Everything matters in the game. I'm proud of the boys, though, and we were chasing the scoreline. We were not quite in a good shape in the first half. It is a great squad we are developing and I'm very proud. I don't think any team has come here and scored as many points. It's a game of rugby: things don't always go your way.

Robshaw stated his pleasure that the side had managed to meet their target of 50 points but also highlighted that it could have been many more after a couple of missed opportunities to extend their lead: "We were a little bit loose at time. We came here to score 50 points and that is what we did. We were a little bit disappointed to concede that try. We were focused and ready. We still feel as though we missed a couple of opportunities. We came here to score 50 points, and that is what we did."

England fans will now await their fate as Ireland travel to Paris. A French win would signal victory for Lancaster's side in this year's Six Nations, adding to the earlier addition of the Triple Crown after victory over Wales last time out.

With fate now out of their hands, everything will remain crossed in Stadio Olimpico's visiting dressing room that the side can reclaim the title for the first time since 2011.

For Italy, though, it's another disappointing Six Nations showing and another reminder that the squad must improve if they're to taste success in this competition.