England 18-11 Italy, Six Nations
England survive Italy scare
March 10, 2013
Date/Time: Mar 10, 2013, 15:00 local, 15:00 GMT
Venue: Twickenham Stadium, London
England 18 - 11 Italy
Attendance: 81458  Half-time: 12 - 3
Pens: Flood 6
Tries: McLean
Pens: Orquera 2
England's Manu Tuilagi finds his way blocked, England v Italy, Six Nations, Twickenham, England, March 10, 2103
England found it hard going against a tactically astute Italian side
© PA Photos
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Tournaments/Tours: Six Nations
Teams: England | Italy

England kept their Grand Slam dreams alive thanks to an unconvincing 18-11 victory over a rejuvenated Italy.

Match Analysis by ESPNscrum's Graham Jenkins

  • Man of the Match: Italy fullback Andrea Masi may have picked up the official Man of the Match honour but his captain Sergio Parisse must have pushed him close. Back in the side having served a recent suspension, he offered a reminder of his class and importance to the Azzurri with a typical all-action display. A significant thorn in England's side from start to finish.
  • Key Moment: England's Danny Care produced an industrious display but it was marred by a woeful box kick that was claimed by Italy's Alessandro Zanni before Luciano Orquera found winger Luke McLean with a cross kick for the game's only try. The score fuelled Italy's resurgence and only some desperate defence kept the visitors at bay in the closing stages.
  • Hero of the Game: England's Grand Slam dream is alive and well thanks to one man - fly-half Toby Flood. His six penalties proved just enough to deny a brave Italy and ensure England travel to Cardiff with an elusive clean sweep within their grasp.
  • Villain of the Game: Italy were robbed of possession and priceless momentum in the first half with referee George Clancy incorrectly ruling that they knocked on inside the England 22 with the home side stretched and a try within their grasp. Not even clarification from his assistant Nigel Owens could sway his opinion and England were awarded the scrum feed in a major let-off.
  • Talking Point: England's Grand Slam dream is intact but they offered little to get Wales worried ahead of their title showdown in Cardiff next weekend. A narrow win for Wales at the Millennium Stadium would see them claim the Six Nations crown - will they do it?
  • Play of the Game: Italy's Sergio Parisse and Alessandro Zanni combined superbly throughout the game - most notably when working in tandem to split England open during the first half. Their quick thinking and equally swift hands allowed them to power down the touchline only for a dubious call by the referee to bring their sweeping move to a sudden halt.

England will have to improve vastly on this error-strewn performance if they are to create a slice of history and wrestle the trophy away from Welsh hands on Saturday. England could have effectively wrapped it up, had they put Italy to the sword in the manner of all previous encounters at Twickenham but in the end they were clinging on for the win.

Lancaster's men will head across the Severn Bridge with a points-difference cushion of just 14. There will be all to play for at the Millennium Stadium.

Toby Flood kicked England to victory with six penalties, overtaking Jonathan Webb as the third highest points scorer, but he kept his side out of jail. This was England's worst performance of the championship, devoid of composure and accuracy. They blew three golden try-scoring opportunities and ended the game on their knees, defending for their lives.

The fact there was not a spark of celebration on the field, and ripples of boos off it summed up how poor England were in the face of an Azzurri side who grew in belief and confidence off the back of red rose mistakes. Italy scored the only try of the game through Luke McLean and they could have led had Luciano Orquera not missed the conversion and a subsequent penalty.

Flood's metronomic boot saved England's bacon but it is Wales who are licking their lips. No longer are they just hoping to ruin England's Grand Slam party, they have a title to retain. Lancaster had demanded a performance of more than just character and England played with a pace and variety in the first 15 minutes that had Italy under real pressure.

Mako Vunipola got underneath Martin Castrogiovanni at the first scrum and a huge England drive allowed Flood to kick his side into a second minute lead. Mike Brown came agonisingly close to his first Test try when he charged down an attempted clearance from Giovanbattista Venditti but the ball skipped dead just before the England wing could chase it down.

England were winning quick ball, Flood was standing flat and passing across defenders' noses, the forwards were offloading well and Italy were on the ropes. Flood extended England's lead with a second penalty after Italy had been penalised once again at the breakdown but the Azzurri succeeded in digging their heels in and slowing the tempo.

Sergio Parisse, inevitably, was at the heart of the Italian resistance, which began with a successful penalty from fly-half Luciano Orquera after England had pulled down a driving maul. Parisse then slipped a delicious one-handed pass to his back row colleague Alessandro Zanni, who charged between Brown and Geoff Parling and to within 10 metres of the try-line.

Brown recovered to get a hand to Zanni's pass but referee George Clancy ruled it as a knock-on, despite his assistant, Nigel Owens, advising him otherwise. Italy then conceded a free kick at the scrum. Parisse, who was only available after having his ban for abusing a referee reduced, must have been biting his tongue.

England came back at Italy and should have been out of sight by the interval but they blew three golden try-scoring opportunities through poor handling or poor decision-making. Chris Ashton was just snagged by the Italian lock Joshua Furno as he darted for the line but Andy Goode ignored a four-man overlap and offloaded to Flood, who was engulfed in defenders and held up over the line. Wasteful.

Italy lost Castrogiovanni to injury and then, on the half hour, Edoardo Gori to the sin-bin for tackling Flood off the ball. England could not capitalise. Parling snatched a turnover and England spread the ball wide from Danny Care to Manu Tuilagi and then Ashton, who streaked down the right wing but his passed in-field went forward and to an Italian. Sloppy.

England's scrum was superior and the pack drew another penalty, which Flood converted, but out wide they lacked accuracy, with Goode butchered another chance with a pass over Tuilagi's head. Inaccurate. Flood kicked penalties either side of half-time to edge England into a 15-3 lead but they continued to make mistakes. Italy fed off them and grew in confidence.

The Azzurri scrum was revitalised after the interval and they earned a penalty, which Orquera kicked, before scoring the first try of the match through McLean. Zanni rose to claim Care's sliced his box and Orquera picked out McLean on the left wing with an inch-perfect cross kick. The Azzurri had come storming back with eight points in a minute.

Orquera missed the conversion from wide on the left and then failed to land a penalty. Had he been successful with both, Italy would have led. Flood continued his faultless performance with the boot and England's defence held firm in the face of some fevered Italian attack to keep their title and Grand Slam ambitions alive.

But another performance like this and Lancaster's men will end the championship empty handed.

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