England 36-15 Italy: Six Nations champions overcome scare
Last Updated: 27/02/17 6:38am
England kept their hopes of back-to-back Grand Slams alive with a 36-15 victory over Italy at Twickenham but only after being given a massive scare.
The Grand Slam champions trailed 10-5 at the end of the worst half of Eddie Jones' reign, brought about by their inability to adapt to Italy's crafty refusal to form rucks.
Even when England recovered to go 17-10 up early in the second half, Italy centre Michele Campagnaro's try on the hour mark cut the hosts' advantage to 17-15.
Had Italy, who saw fly-half Tommaso Allan miss three penalties and full-back Edoardo Padovani off target with a conversion, landed all their kicks at goal they might even have been celebrating a famous win.
Instead, England recorded their 23rd victory in as many Tests against Italy, but only after two late tries from replacement Jack Nowell and one from centre Ben Te'o finally put the result beyond doubt.
The win was also England's 17th in a row - just one shy of New Zealand's all-time record for a tier-one nation.
Italy's scrum crumpled under England pressure and Care took a quick tap-penalty before scampering into the corner, turning the momentum in his side's favour four minutes into the second half.
Moments later Daly went over for England's third of six tries and although Campagnaro replied, the hosts held onto their lead before cutting loose in the final 10 minutes.
Italy's build-up to the match was dominated by debate over whether their decline and the rise of Georgia - who are positioned higher in the world rankings - should see relegation introduced to the Six Nations, but the Azzurri sounded a note of defiance at Twickenham.
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Their refusal to form rucks unsettled and confused England, who took it in turns to question referee Romain Poite over the ruse. "I can't say, I'm a referee, I'm not a coach," was Poite's response to James Haskell.
But England found another gear when they needed to with Nowell, Te'o and then Nowell again crossing as Italy's tiring defensive line splintered.
The goalkicking on display was extremely poor, with Owen Farrell and Tomasso Allan equally wayward. The Italian fly-half's 40th-minute penalty came back off the post for Venditti to score but it was a kick he should have put over with his eyes closed.
Farrell led out the team in recognition of his 50th cap, but it was an uncharacteristically poor afternoon for the world player of the year nominee, who completed only four of his six shots at goal.
Man of the match
Former Australia back Matt Giteau was intrigued by head coach Eddie Jones' reaction to England's first-half display.
Stat of the match
12: The number of penalties conceded by England, four more than Italy.
England head coach Eddie Jones: "I'm not happy what happened today, I don't think that's rugby. I played rugby a long time ago, I've coached rugby.
"I understand what Italy did and I'm not angry with what they did, but I just don't think it's rugby."
Italy head coach Conor O'Shea: "We thought we might come away with a bonus point but we're here not to be plucky losers.
"We're learning at the highest level and hopefully we've earned a little bit of respect here today."