England won their first match under coach Steve Borthwick as they overpowered Italy up front in a 31-14 Six Nations success at Twickenham on Sunday.
Italy’s pack were unable to cope with England’s driving maul from close-range line-outs, while recalled centre Ollie Lawrence repeatedly made inroads into the Azzurri defence.
Borthwick’s reign had started with a 29-23 loss at home to Scotland last weekend in the first round of the tournament.
But on Sunday his side surged into a commanding 19-0 lead at half-time after tries by forwards Jack Willis, Ollie Chessum and Jamie George.
“I think we took some steps forward today, it’s an important thing to recognise,” Borthwick told ITV.
“Ultimately we left some chances out there.”
Italy, fresh from a creditable 29-24 defeat by reigning Six Nations champions France in Rome, arrived in London with genuine hope of a first win over England.
But instead they suffered a 30th defeat in as many matches between the two countries.
Marco Riccioni pulled a try back for Italy shortly after the break before another England line-out drive led to a penalty try and a yellow card for Azzurri replacement Simone Ferrari.
Italy were not finished though, with replacement scrum-half Alessandro Fusco, only on the field for a matter of seconds, going over for a 63rd-minute try after a break by wing Tommaso Menoncello.
But nine minutes from time, Henry Arundell put the result beyond doubt when he went over for a try following good work by fellow England replacement back Alex Mitchell.
Significant score for Willis
It took England 13 minutes to open the scoring.
Owen Farrell opted against going for goal with a routine penalty and kicked for an attacking line-out instead.
England won possession from the set-piece and recalled openside flanker Willis was driven over through Italy’s weak maul defence, with Farrell, playing at fly-half in a revamped back division after Marcus Smith was benched, adding the conversion.
It was a significant score for the 26-year-old Willis.
Two years ago he came off the bench to score a try against Italy only to suffer a severe injury to his right knee minutes later — the back-row’s howls of anguish echoed round Twickenham in a match played behind closed doors because of Covid-19 restrictions — that kept him on the sidelines for a year.
Italy captain Michele Lamaro had to undergo a head injury assessment in the 23rd minute and his side suffered further disruption when No 8 Lorenzo Cannone was sin-binned by referee James Doleman following repeated offending by the Azzurri.
England made their man advantage count soon afterwards when, following a slick pop-pass from prop Ellis Genge near the line, second row Chessum powered over for his first Test try, with Farrell again adding the extras.
England scrum-half Jack van Poortvliet had a try ruled out for obstruction in midfield but it made little difference.
Borthwick’s men scored a third try — and their second with Italy down to 14 men — when hooker George was the beneficiary of yet another line-out drive.
Italy hit back at the start of the second half when, after a sniping break by dangerous full-back Ange Capuozzo, Saracens prop Riccioni burst through a gap for a try converted by another England-based player in Harlequins fly-half Tommaso Allan.
England’s maul, however, then proved Italy’s undoing again, the award of a penalty try by referee Doleman giving Borthwick’s men a bonus point.
Italy were not finished though, with Fusco scoring after a break by Menoncello took the Azzurri into England’s 22.
But Arundell put the result beyond doubt in the 71st minute.
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