Ireland got their Six Nations title hopes back on track as they picked up a 63-10 victory over Italy at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.
Bouncing back from a first round loss to Scotland, the Irish were superb against the Azzurri as they made it six points from two matches.
They did it without their captain Rory Best, who was a late withdrawal from the side due to an illness. It mattered little as they cruised.
A CJ Stander treble stole the show and Keith Earls got two in the first 40 with Craig Gilroy (3) and Garry Ringrose scoring in the second.
Ireland came out of the blocks firing and were 28-10 ahead at the interval, thanks to a brace apiece from wing Earls and flanker Stander.
After enjoying a good deal of early territory and possession, which included Simon Zebo losing the ball over the line, eventually the Irish crossed on 12 minutes when Earls was put over by Paddy Jackson on the right wing. His conversion moved Ireland seven points ahead.
Carlo Canna did pull Italy back to within four points with a penalty for Ireland coming offside but it was papering over the Irish domination.
Ireland had their second try on 18 minutes when Stander had a run-in on the left wing and when carries from the aforementioned flank and Sean O’Brien created space for Earls to grab his second try on 27 minutes, suddenly the visiting side were cruising at 21-3 to the good.
Italy did get on the board via a driving lineout soon after with referee Glen Jackson awarding a penalty try for a cynical collapse from Donnacha Ryan. The second-row spent the next ten minutes in the sin-bin with Canna slotting the extra two points that made it 21-10.
Ryan though would have been pleased to see Stander barge his way over before half-time as the gulf in class again became evident.
That dominance continued after the resumption as patient rugby from Ireland led to Stander again slipping tackles for his hat-trick on 46 minutes. It was their first Six Nations treble since Brian O’Driscoll in 2002, with Jackson slotting the extras to continue his 100 percent record off the tee.
At 35-10 the game as a contest was over but Ireland knew that a substantial points difference could boost their title hopes at the end of March. But with wholesale changes made on both sides the game in Rome became somewhat fragmented heading into the final 20 minutes.
Their sixth try was to come though and it was replacement wing Gilroy, who stepped inside before racing under the posts for a 42-10 lead before Ringrose showed his class as he made his try number seven. With Jackson’s seventh successful conversion, Ireland were 49-10 up.
Ireland would add two more tries before the end as Gilroy first collected Stander’s kick ahead on 78 minutes to run over for his brace, with Jackson adding the extras, before Jackson fed the wing for his own treble to wrap up an impressive victory at the Stadio Olimpico.
Try: Penalty Try
Tries: Earls 2, Stander 3, Gilroy 3, Ringrose
Cons: Jackson 9
Yellow Card: Ryan
Italy: 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Luke Mclean, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (c), 7 Simone Favaro, 6 Maxime Mbanda, 5 Andries van Schalkwyk, 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Ornel Gega, 17 Sami Panico, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 George Biagi, 20 Abraham Steyn, 21 Giorgio Bronzini, 22 Tommaso Allan, 23 Michele Campagnaro
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip (c), 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Cian Healy
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 John Ryan, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Craig Gilroy
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)