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Published: 15:39 | 12/3/16

Nine-try Ireland hammer Italy

Azzuri blown away at the Aviva

Ireland ran in nine tries for the first time ever in the RBS Six Nations as a fine display of open running rugby saw them demolish Italy 58-15 at the Aviva Stadium.

After Andrew Trimble's early opener set them on their way, Jack McGrath, CJ Stander, Jamie Heaslip (2), Jarod Payne, Sean Cronin, Ian Madigan and Fergus McFadden all crossed in a rampant display from Joe Schmidt's men, with Jonathan Sexton adding nine points with the boot and Madigan completing his haul with two late conversions.

David Odiete and Leonardo Sarto crossed in the second half for the visitors, with an Edoardo Padovani penalty and Kelly Haimona conversion completing their tally in a disappointing display from the Azzuri.

Ireland were hoping to salvage something from what has been a disappointing campaign so far following losses to France and England and a draw against Wales, while Italy were anxious to avoid an eleventh wooden spoon in 17 years.

The visitors started strongly and it took a last-ditch tackle from Conor Murray just two minutes in to prevent winger Sarto getting over in the corner.

But Ireland responded and, following a Sexton kick over the top, capitalised on some loose defence to recycle quickly and release Trimble to cross in the corner for the opening score of the game.

Sexton was narrowly wide with the conversion attempt from the touchline, but Ireland were ahead at 5-0 after seven minutes.

The home side had their second try on the quarter hour mark after Sexton opted to go for the corner with a very kickable penalty. The decision paid off as Ireland secured the line-out and McGrath was able to burrow his way over for his second ever try for his country.

Sexton made no mistake with the conversion to make it 12-0.

Italy finally got themselves on the scoreboard on 24 minutes after Ireland were pinged for playing the ball on the ground in the ruck and out-half Padovani had the simplest task of converting the resulting penalty from straight in front of the posts.

Ireland hit back in kind within two minutes as Sexton split the posts from just inside the ten-metre line after Sergio Parisse was penalised for a late hit on the Leinster out-half.

Schmidt's men had their third try of the game just after the half hour as, after Sexton had released Keith Earls with a deft switch pass, the Munster winger swung a pass wide for Trimble. The Ulster man was stopped just short but the ball was quickly recycled for Stander to barge his way over for his first international try on his fourth cap.

Sexton was unable to convert from out wide, but there was now real daylight between the sides at 20-3 after 32 minutes.

Ireland made the game safe just before the break with one of the tries of the championship as Simon Zebo broke from deep inside his own 22 and quick hands from Trimble, Sexton, Payne and substitute McFadden, a blood substitute for Robbie Henshaw just minutes earlier, allowed Heaslip to finish a move that was reminiscent of Serge Blanco et al in their pomp.

It was starting to become a kicking day to forget for Sexton as his conversion attempt drifted wide once again, but Ireland were free and clear at 25-3 at half-time.

The one-way traffic continued after the break as Payne secured an easy interception on the Italian 22 to run in unopposed for his first international try on 43 minutes, with Sexton making no mistake from straight in front of the posts to make it 32-3.

Heaslip grabbed his second of the day five minutes later, crashing over under the posts after a spell of pressure close to the Italian line.

Sexton added the extras to make it 39-3, his last contribution of the day as he was replaced by Ian Madigan with Cronin also coming in for his 50th cap in place of skipper Rory Best.

The Leinster hooker had another reason to celebrate shortly afterwards as, after Earls had tapped and gone with a penalty inside the Italian 22, he barged over under the posts for the seventh try of the game.

Madigan slotted his first points to make it 46-3.

Italy salvaged some pride shortly afterwards as full-back Odiete touched down in the corner, with substitute Haimona converting superbly from the touchline as the visitors reached double figures on the scoreboard.

But Ireland hit back and Madigan brought them beyond 50 points with 16 minutes remaining as he capped off a period of sustained pressure close to the Italian line with a quick burst of pace to create just enough room to squeeze over in the corner.

His conversion attempt came back off the upright but, at 51-10, it didn't really matter.

Sarto crossed for Italy's second try of the game five minutes from the end, Haimona narrowly off target with the conversion attempt this time, but Ireland rightly had the final say as McFadden broke through the Italian defence for Ireland's ninth try, Madigan again converting to leave it 58-15 at the close.

By: Kieran O'Daly

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