Ireland Under-21s 34 Italy Under-21s 9
A 69th-minute try from captain Stuart Philpott rounded out a comfortable win for the Ireland Under-21s in their 6 Nations opener against Italy.
The Belfast Harlequins hooker barged over for Ireland’s fifth and final try at their tournament base of Dubarry Park.
The tireless Philpott typified the hosts’ effort, but Ireland looked flat at times, and will certainly need to up their game for next Friday’s trip to France.
Tries from Fionn Carr, Paul Marshall and Matthew Williams helped them end the first half 20-6 in front.
The Italians, whose only points came from the boot of fly half Andrea Brussolo, were down to 13 men either side of the break as captain Alberto Saccardo and winger Angelo Russo earned yellow cards for ruck offences.
Although the encounter was competitive to the finish, scoring a try proved beyond the visitors.
Fly-half Jonathan Sexton got the ball rolling for the Irish with a well-taken ninth-minute penalty.
Full-back Carr then broke up a scrappy spell of play with a brilliant try on 16 minutes.
Sexton linked with Conan Doyle before centre Darren Cave took a superb line, changing the thrust of the right wing attack, to put Carr over from 25 metres out.
Sexton missed the conversion and Brussolo dinked over the first of his three penalties soon after.
Try number two arrived for Ireland on 25 minutes when Philpott broke down the blindside for Williams to send elusive scrum-half Marshall in behind the posts.
Mark McDermott’s side lost Sexton to the sin bin, six minutes later, for hands in the ruck, and Italy briefly threatened with Brussolo kicking the resulting penalty for 15-6.
But Marshall then broke loose to send winger Williams over.
Just before half-time, Italy were further curtailed when Saccardo and Russo were sent to the sin bin for ruck misdemeanours.
The visitors fought on bravely though and it was not until teenager Cave’s 54th-minute try, set up by a Peter Durcan chip, that they lost heart.