England stuttered to a 36-15 victory over Italy to keep their Grand Slam hopes alive in a scrappy encounter at Twickenham on Sunday.
Strong winds made it a nightmare afternoon for kickers Owen Farrell and Tommaso Allan and it was Dan Cole who got the first points on the board for England, touching down from close-range in the corner.
Eddie Jones’ men looked set to go into the break with the lead but Giovanbattista Venditti crossed the line after Allan’s penalty rebounded off the upright to make it 10-5 a half-time.
The home side flew out of the blocks in the second-half, with Danny Care, Elliot Daly and all Jack Nowell crossing over in the early stages.
Michele Campagnaro scored for the visitors with 20 minutes remaining to set up a nervy ending but late tries from Ben Te’o and Nowell put the reigning champions out of sight.
Elliot Daly (England)
Daly is fast becoming one of England’s most dangerous attacking outlets but it was his defence which most impressed this weekend.
The inexperienced winger put in a number of crucial tackles before the break to keep the likes of Sergio Parisse and Abraham Steyn at bay.
Daly’s touch-finder in the 41st minute settled England’s nerves after a scrappy opening 40 minutes from the reigning Six Nations champions.
Just minutes later, the Wasps speedster crossed over for England’s third try to put the home side in front.
Maro Itoje (England)
In Maro Itoje, Eddie Jones has at his disposal England’s most dynamic back-row player since Lewis Moody.
The Saracens youngster, playing at blindside flanker on Sunday, is already world-class at the breakdown and he was simply unplayable in the line-out at Twickenham.
Itoje’s enormous tackle on Allan in the 2nd minute set the tone for England – the 22-year-old is surely a shoo-in for the British and Irish Lions’ tour of New Zealand in the summer.
Danny Care (England)
Eddie Jones dropped Ben Youngs to the bench for the clash with Italy and, despite a shaky start from Danny Care, the Harlequins scrum-half was in inspired form.
The diminutive No 9 maybe should have done better following a scything break in the 36th minute but he made no mistakes second time around.
Care’s try just after half-time gave England the boost to see out a brilliant 40 minutes after the break – will Youngs be worried for his place?
Tommaso Allan (Italy)
Tommaso Allan never really recovered from a shaky opening in which he fumbled an up and under from Danny Care and felt the force of a thunderous Maro Itoje tackle.
The gusty winds circling around Twickenham did Allan absolutely no favours but the Benetton No 10 cannot blame the weather for all of his problems with the boot on Sunday afternoon.
Allan, though, was successful with a drop goal and had a hand in Giovanbattista Venditti’s try at the end of the first-half after his penalty rebounded fortunately off the upright.
Sergio Parisse (Italy)
Sergio Parisse has won his fair share of man of the match awards over the course of his Six Nations career but the Italian skipper was a long way from his best at Twickenham.
The Italy skipper was at fault for England’s penalty which led to the opening try of the game from Dan Cole and was largely overshadowed Nathan Hughes.
Parisse was also caught by Courtney Lawes as Italy had an overlap to stop a certain try following a period of dominance from the visitors in the dying moments of the first-half.
Owen Farrell (England)
England talisman Owen Farrell had a rare off day at Twickenham off the back of a sensational tournament.
Like his opposite number, Farrell struggled to cope with the winds and had a quiet game from an attacking perspective.
Expect to see a invigorated Farrell for the side’s next match at home to Scotland.