Shannon starlet Craig Casey touched down twice as the unbeaten Ireland Under-20s efficiently dispatched Italy 34-14 in Rieti to stay top of the U-20 Six Nations table.
Despite a late concession from a maul, captain David Hawkshaw's 76th-minute bonus point try put the seal on a professional performance from Noel McNamara's charges who registered their third win on the trot and were able to give debuts to replacements Ronan Watters, Callum Reid, Billy Scannell and Ben Healy.
Tries from returning scrum half Casey, who sniped over in the 10th minute, and the Leinster-capped Scott Penny, close to half-time, gave the visitors a 17-0 advantage with classy out-half Harry Byrne kicking 12 points on the night. Casey and Hawkshaw's second half scores were matched by Italian replacements Matteo Nocera and Marco Butturini.
The early surge came from Ireland, loosehead Josh Wycherley winning a scrum penalty against Filippo Alongi. String-pulling number 10 Byrne was stopped short off a close-in scrum before his half-back partner Casey burrowed over successfully and the Lansdowne clubman converted.
Ireland did well to survive successive penalties off the robust Italian maul, eventually forcing an error, and Byrne's flat midfield pass soon had Dylan Tierney-Martin and Casey breaking over halfway. Byrne landed his first penalty in the 26th minute, rewarding Wycherley's scrummaging again, with Jake Flannery and Angus Kernohan both impressing as kick receivers.
Liam Turner made an important tackle to foil an Italian counter attack, and the forwards also scuppered a couple of promising maul opportunities for the Azzurrini. In between, Hawkshaw got over the gain-line to spark a strong finish to the first half, with the resulting forward pressure seeing openside Penny drive up hard to the left hand post for his converted try.
Hawkshaw's rapid midfield run set up another Byrne three-pointer, early on the resumption, whereas Italy failed to profit from breaks by Andrea Chianucci and Matteo Drudi, Quickly capitalising on replacement prop Luca Franceschetto's sin-binning on the hour mark, Casey crossed from close range after Penny had been stopped just short.
An inviting flat pass sent Nocera in behind the Irish posts in response, but Hawkshaw tidied up an overthrown lineout and showed very good strength to ground his side's fourth and final try, converted by Healy. Although a shoulder charge earned Jacopo Trulla a late yellow card, the hosts responded with Butturini's closing score from a maul.
ITALY U-20: Giacomo Da Re (Mogliano Rugby 1969); Edoardo Mastandrea (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Matteo Moscardi (FEMI-CZ Rovigo), Federico Mori (Rugby Etruschi Livorno), Michael Mba (Rugby Casale); Paolo Garbisi (Mogliano Rugby 1969), Lorenzo Citton (Valsugana Rugby Padova); Matteo Drudi (Frascati Rugby Club), Andrei Marinello (Ruggers Tarvisium), Filippo Alongi (I Titani), Nicolae Cristian Stoian (Rugby Anzio), Thomas Parolo (FEMI-CZ Rovigo), Andrea Chianucci (Toscana Aeroporti I Medicei), Davide Ruggeri (Rugby Como) (capt), Antoine Koffi (Kawasaki Robot Calvisano).
Replacements used: Jacopo Trulla (Valsugana Rugby Padova) for Mastandrea, Matteo Nocera (Fiamme Oro Rugby) for Alongi, Manuel Zuliani (Rugby Paese) for Chianucci (all 52 mins), Luca Franceschetto (Rugby Vicenza) for Drudi (56), Marco Butturini (Modena Rugby 1965) for Parolo (65), Damiano Mazza (Kawasaki Robot Calvisano) for Da Re (66), Marco Bonanni (Florentia Rugby) for Marinello (74). Not used: Gianmarco Piva (FEMI-CZ Rovigo).
IRELAND U-20: Jake Flannery (Shannon/Munster); Angus Kernohan (Queen's University/Ulster), Liam Turner (Dublin University/Leinster), David Hawkshaw (Clontarf/Leinster) (capt), Jonathan Wren (Cork Constitution/Munster); Harry Byrne (Lansdowne/Leinster), Craig Casey (Shannon/Munster); Josh Wycherley (Young Munster/Munster), Dylan Tierney-Martin (Corinthians/Connacht), Thomas Clarkson (Dublin University/Leinster), Charlie Ryan (UCD/Leinster), Niall Murray (Buccaneers/Connacht), Martin Moloney (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Scott Penny (UCD/Leinster), John Hodnett (UCC/Munster).
Replacements used: Ronan Watters (St. Mary's College/Leinster) for Moloney (33-36 mins, blood sub), Brian Deeny (Clontarf/Leinster) for Murray (65), Callum Reid (Banbridge/Ulster) for Wycherley, Billy Scannell (Young Munster/Munster) for Tierney-Martin, Rob Russell (Dublin University/Leinster) for Flannery (all 66), Michael Milne (UCD/Leinster) for Clarkson (69), Ben Healy (Garryowen/Munster) for Byrne, Watters for Moloney, Cormac Foley (St. Mary's College/Leinster) for Casey (all 74).
Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)