By Mark Jones
DUBLIN — Ireland’s Six Nations victory over Italy at Lansdowne Road Saturday means that Eddie O’Sullivan’s side goes to Paris a week from Saturday still in contention for championship honors. However, even if the Irish manage to upset favorites France, who are on course for a grand slam, England will only need to beat the Italians the following day by a comfortable margin to claim the title once again.
This performance was average at best, as Italy adopted an overly aggressive approach. Without question, the visitors’ prop, Salvatore Perugini, should have been sent off during the first half for headbutting Peter Stringer, although Scottish referee Rob Dickson surprisingly issued only a yellow card.
On another occasion, Stringer was elbowed by Diego Dominguez, Peter Clohessy was involved in a flareup and another Italian forward, Giampiero De Carli, was shown the yellow card. In between the bouts of bad blood, the Irish managed to score three tries through debutant winger John Kelly, who crossed for two, and Denis Hickie.
The rest of the points came from the boot of new captain, David Humphreys, and Ronan O’Gara, who came on for Humphreys as a temporary replacement. With Keith Wood still struggling due to a back injury, Humphreys could well be in charge in Paris, where Wood’s experience and class are sure to be sorely missed.
The Irish made too many unforced errors, and once again the line-out was inconsistent with hooker Shane Byrne having difficulties with his throwing. The biggest cheer of the day was for Clohessy, who was playing his last game at Lansdowne Road before retiring at the end of the season. It was that sort of match.
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