Six Nations 2013: Italy claim historic first win against Ireland
Six Nations 2013: Giovanbattista Venditti's try helps Italy secure their first-ever win against Ireland at the Stadio Olimpico
Giovanbattista Venditti scored the only try as Italy defeated Ireland for the first time in Six Nations history, edging to a thrilling victory in Rome.
Luciano Orquera also kicked 14 points as Ireland, whose injury crisis deepened, saw their winless run extend to four and could yet finish bottom of the pile this year.
For Italy, it is only the second time they have won two matches in a Championship – the first coming in 2007 – and the Azzurri were well worthy of their first win over Ireland since 1997.
Ireland began the brighter, capitalising on some loose Italian kicking with some smart counter-attacking but as has been their problem throughout the tournament, they struggled to make take advantage of territory in the hosts’ half.
They did however, take the lead on six minutes when Italy were penalised after one of Rob Kearney’s booming up and unders, Paddy Jackson on target from just outside the Azzurri’s 22.
Ireland came again, pinning Italy back in their own half but a mis-firing lineout combined with some stoic Azzurri defending ensured the try-line was never threatened.
On 13 minutes, Ireland’s was when a driving maul saw Sergio Parisse spin off towards the try-line, only to fall just short.
Referee Wayne Barnes awarded the penalty however, calling up flanker Peter O’Mahony as Luciano Orquera levelled the scores with the simplest of penalties.
On 20 minutes, Italy ought to have taken the lead when Barnes awarded another penalty – this time Sean O’Brien was the offender – but Orquera struck the left-hand post.
Ireland did not make the most of their let-off however and just a minute later Orquera did hand Italy the advantage after Cian Healy didn’t roll away after the tackle.
Italy were growing in stature and Parisse, much like he did against England, showed fine hands to put Joshua Furno through on the inside, forcing Ireland into some desperate defending.
Keith Earls attempted to lead the fightback and he made an impressive burst but he injured his shoulder as a torrid ten minutes ensued for Ireland.
Earls limped off and then two minutes later, centre Luke Marshall followed him after a knock to the head as Luke Fitzgerald and then Iain Madigan came off the bench.
Despite that, they did earn themselves a penalty on 29 minutes but Jackson pushed his kick to the right before Brian O’Driscoll was then sent to the sin bin for a stamp on Simone Favaro.
Italy scented that their opponents were in disarray and enjoyed a number of phases in the Ireland 22 but at the crucial moment Orquera knocked on, handing Ireland a reprieve.
It didn’t last long however and after Italy won a penalty at scrum, centre Gonzalo Garcia landed a long-range kick from the half-way line to hand the hosts a 9-3 lead.
Things got worse for Ireland when Fitzgerald was the next to limp off, prompting Declan Kidney to introduce 21-year-old back row Iain Henderson and shifting O’Mahony to the left wing.
Andrea Lo Cicero, playing in his 103rd and final international, then went on a bulldozing break as Ireland were left clinging on and desperate for the half-time whistle to come.
But in the final minute of the half, buoyed by the reintroduction of O’Driscoll, they earned themselves a penalty and Jackson ensured their half-time deficit was just three.
The break did little to boost Ireland however and Italy flew out of the blocks as they sought the opening try of the match.
After numerous phases, Orquera’s fine grubber kick was fielded by Craig Gilroy, who took the ball back over his own line and from the resulting scrum, just after Andrea Masi was stopped just short, Venditti was awarded the try after Barnes consulted the TMO.
Orquera converted but that stirred Ireland, and O’Driscoll in particular, into action and back they came, aware they were starring down the barrel of defeat.
They were given a helping hand on 53 minutes when Parisse was sent to the sin bin for a trip on Madigan and the gap was seven when Jackson made no mistake from the tee.
Italy continued to carry the fight to an Ireland but on 58 minutes, after O’Driscoll’s turnover had earned another penalty, the visitors were down by just four behind, Jackson on target again from distance.
With Parisse off the field, Ireland stepped onto the offensive and went through 21 phases but found no way through the Italy defence, despite concerted pressure just short of the line.
Ireland were playing with the advantage however and they were back to within a point on 64 minutes when Jackson slotted over from in front of the posts.
Garcia then missed a chance to extend Italy’s lead back to four but from closer in, after Donnacha Ryan had been shown a yellow card, Orquera struck a 70th minute penalty to take Italy one step closer to victory.
Ireland desperately went in search of the try they required to win the match but Italy stole the ball and Parisse marched his side down field, as the hosts were awarded a penalty.
Conor Murray was sent to the sin bin as Orquera kicked for the corner and earned themselves another penalty – this time Orquera bisecting the posts to rubber-stamp Italy’s historic victory to end their Six Nations campaign on a high.