Three second-half tries from centre Jonathan Joseph helped England brush off the challenge of Italy on Sunday as they won 40-9 in Rome.
Leading by just two points at the interval, the pre-game script went to form after the turnaround as England moved through the gears to claim their second victory in as many rounds, with George Ford and Owen Farrell scoring their other tries in what was ultimately an easy win.
The Six Nations now takes a week’s break before a confident England play host to Ireland while Italy take on Scotland at this same venue.
As expected it was a rugged first-half with little given by the Italians, who enjoyed a decent slice of possession and territory in Rome.
In fact they took the lead in the ninth minute when a wayward English line-out led to an offence and Carlo Canna did the rest off the tee.
England soon levelled courtesy of a strong scrum as Farrell stepped up to make it 3-3 in an even opening twelve minutes to the game.
What was noticeable was a fired-up Italian side and centre Michele Campagnaro was leading that hunger in defence, making two massive tackles and one strong carry that lifted the crowd. As coach Eddie Jones watched on, he might have regretted his pre-game public message.
Fortunately for England they would get back into the Italian red zone on seventeen minutes and when the hosts failed to release a tackled player on the ground, Ford stepped up in the absence of Farrell, who was off for a Head Injury Assessment, to nudge his team back in front.
It didn’t last long though as soon after England lock George Kruis was caught doing the same offence, Canna making it 6-6 off the tee.
The first-half looked like being try-less until the 25th minute when a high testing kick from Ford led to Italy scrum-half Edoardo Gori being put under pressure and turned over. From there the recycled ball saw Farrell set up his fly-half nicely as Ford ran in on the left sideline.
Farrell struck the post from the resulting conversion so Italy remained very much in touch, however losing inside centre Gonzalo Garcia to a leg injury was a worry. A Canna penalty before the break helped cushion that, coming from Ben Youngs’ high tackle on Sergio Parisse.
Italy withstood a strong English start to the second-half and could have moved in front had Canna landed a penalty. But it was to be England who opened the account in fortuitist fashion when centre Joseph intercepted Leonardo Sarto’s pass for a clean run-in to the try-line.
Farrell added the simple extras to make it 18-9 and it was 25-9 before the hour mark when replacement scrum-half Danny Care’s nice grubber through found Joseph for his brace. That try arrived after the English crowd had cheered the arrival of Maro Itoje in place of James Haskell.
More was to the come from England, who had now thrown on their bench for the remaining fifteen minutes, as Joseph powered over on the left for his hat-trick. Farrell could not land the difficult conversion but at 33-9 the game was done as England looked for more five-pointers.
One more did arrive when replacement hooker Jamie George offloaded to Farrell for a walkover under the posts, as the English march into Round Three sitting pretty at the Six Nations summit, leading France on points difference.
Pen: Canna 3
Tries: Ford, Joseph 3, Farrell
Con: Farrell 3
Pen: Farrell 2, Ford
Italy: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (c), 7 Alessandro Zanni, 6 Francesco Minto, 5 Marco Fuser, 4 George Fabio Biagi, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Ornel Gega, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Matteo Zanusso, 18 Martin Castrogiovanni, 19 Valerio Bernabo, 20 Andries van Schalkwyk, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Edoardo Padovani, 23 Andrea Pratichetti
England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jack Nowell, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 James Haskell, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 George Kruis, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Maro Itoje, 21 Jack Clifford, 22 Danny Care, 23 Alex Goode
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)