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Ireland on cloud nine after Italian job

Associated Press logo Associated Press 11/02/2017

Ireland earned the first Six Nations four-try bonus point and a stack of records in drubbing Italy 63-10 at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.

The Irish got their title hopes back on track with try hat-tricks for flanker CJ Stander and replacement winger Craig Gilroy. All nine of Ireland's tries were converted by Paddy Jackson on a balmy afternoon.

Ireland's first tournament hat-tricks in 15 years propelled the side to its highest-ever tournament score, eclipsing the 60 they put on the same opposition in 2000.

All of Italy's points came in the first half from a converted penalty try and a Carlo Canna penalty.

"The final score put a nice shine on (the match), but at the same time we did work a lot of good scores," stand-in captain Jamie Heaslip said. "We were a lot more clinical (than in the opening loss to Scotland)."

Heaslip wore the armband because Rory Best was ruled out due to a stomach bug. Niall Scannell made his test debut at hooker, and he looked like a veteran.

Unlike at Murrayfield the previous weekend, when Scotland led 21-5 inside half an hour, Ireland burst out of the blocks in Rome to earn the four-try bonus point after 34 minutes.

Stander and Keith Earls scored two tries each in the first half, as the Irish attacked in waves, narrowed the Italian defence, and struck on the outsides.

Stander was first to the hat trick right after halftime, put into a gap and ran around fullback Edoardo Padovani. In tournament history, that made him the first forward in 55 years to score three tries in a match, and only the third ever.

Two minutes after Stander's hat trick, Craig Gilroy replaced Robbie Henshaw and moved to the right wing. He scored his hat-trick in 14 minutes, around Garry Ringrose's solo try.

The final score was the third-highest ever in the championship.

Italy's ninth straight loss in the championship was a sobering first match for coach Conor O'Shea against his homeland. He played 35 times for the Irish in the 1990s.

"It was difficult because in the first 20 minutes we took wave after wave," O'Shea said. "That's the gap and the level when you make mistakes.

"I know the scale of the challenge. We all do. We had a difficult week last week for a series of reasons. Today, the better team won."

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