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Italy vs. Ireland: Score, Report and Reaction from 2015 Six Nations Clash

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistFebruary 7, 2015

Ireland's Sean O'Brien, left, is cheered by teammates after scoring a try during the Six Nations Rugby Union match between Italy and Ireland at Rome's Olympic stadium, Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Gregorio Borgia/Associated Press

Ireland were far from at their best on Saturday but managed to claim a 26-3 victory over Italy in Rome to get their defence of the Six Nations title underway with a win.

Joe Schmidt will have been pleased to get the result first and foremost, but his side failed to inspire in their carrying game and relied on fly-half Ian Keatley to provide the bulk of their points, RTE Rugby confirming the result:

RTÉ Rugby @RTErugby

Ireland win their opening #SixNations game. Full-time: Italy 3-26 Ireland. LIVE: http://t.co/T35cGzFeB8 #rterugby http://t.co/GVzLq7B75l

Keatley came in as replacement for the injured Jonny Sexton, while Tommy O'Donnell deputised at openside following Sean O'Brien's tragically timed setback during Saturday's warm-ups.

Italy's tag as Wooden Spoon favourites didn't affect the tempo of Saturday's clash to begin with, the defending champions finding their hosts to be most stingy in terms of chances offered.

Gregorio Borgia/Associated Press

However, Ireland's lack of running opportunities seemed more as a result of their own infuriating mistakes than solely due to the Azzurri's defensive duties, although those were certainly a factor.

Keatley, still inexperienced on the Ireland Test stage, did go through some growing pains, and as Andy McGeady of the Irish Times suggested, the first half was a drab one in Rome:

Andy McGeady @andymcgeady

Italy v Ireland is poor enough. Much more fun to keep on about the George North fiasco. #6N

The Irish fly-half did manage to give his team a 9-3 lead at the break, but this wasn't exactly the free-flowing start to their tournament that Ireland will have wanted.

Despite the lack of points, Ireland did consistently maintain a majority of the pressure, however, with OptaJonny illustrating just how much pressure Jacques Brunel's side came under:

OptaJonny @OptaJonny

245 – Italy's tally of 245 tackles in last year's clash with Ireland is a @rbs_6_nations record, they have made 135 so far today. Repeat.

Pressure is one thing, but a failure to make it tell threatened to put the result in doubt unless the visiting side could find an extra gear.

And find an extra gear they did, just after hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini was yellow carded for disrupting an Irish maul, scrum-half Conor Murray punishing the home outfit not long after, per BBC Scrum V:

BBC ScrumV @BBCScrumV

Yellow card for Leonardo Ghiraldini. .. And Italy's walls crumble. Conor Murray scores. He did a Rhys Webb. Tactical show and go.

O'Donnell scythed through a gap in midfield just minutes after that to heap further woe upon the Italians, and it was clear the floodgates had now opened just as rain began to pour down on the Stadio Olimpico.

The worsening conditions made it difficult for Ireland to build on their 26-3 lead, and the Azzurri actually began to pick up their ambitions at this stage, albeit being too late to take any kind of result.

ROME, ITALY - FEBRUARY 07:  Tommy O'Donnell of Ireland dives over to score his team's second try during the RBS Six Nations match between Italy and Ireland at the Stadio Olimpico on February 7, 2015 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

The final five minutes saw Brunel's men threaten Ireland's line, thanks somewhat to Tommaso Allan's introduction at fly-half, and their consolation almost came through a first international try for Kelly Haimona.

However, a knock-on from talisman Sergio Parisse in the build-up saw the TMO rule out Italy's score and save Schmidt's men some blushes for allowing the Italians such space in the dying phases.

All things considered, New Zealander Schmidt will be pleased with the result, but a particular mind such as his will undoubtedly have a host of ideas in sight for his side to improve.

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