England hold off Italian fightback

England don't have it all their own way in Rome.

    Lesley Vainikolo (l) the biggest volcano to hit Italy
    since Pompeii [GALLO/GETTY]
    England held on to beat a resurgent Italy 23-19 in the Six Nations in a match where Jonny Wilkinson surpassed 1,000 test points.

    England had led 20-6 at half time after Wilkinson helped set up tries from Paul Sackey and Toby Flood, converted them and added nine points through penalties, for a total of 13 points, to take his test total to 1,009.

    But Italy outscored England 13-3 in the second half, with substitute Simon Picone scoring a try in the 76th after charging down a kick from Wilkinson's replacement Danny Cipriani.

    Italy fullback David Bortolussi converted that, and kicked four penalties.

    "We are on the right end of the scoreline," Wilkinson said.

    "It's not easy at all. All teams will find that against Italy. They are full of talent, they can attack, defend and have power as well. They are a great side. We almost threw it away but we didn't."

    It's the closest Italy has got to beating England in the Six Nations since joining in 2000. Last year, England beat Italy 20-7.

    Wilkinson, who had a poor second half in England's surprise 26-19 loss to Wales at Twickenham last week, helped set up Sackey for England's first try in the third minute.

    Bortolussi pulled back six points with two penalties before England went ahead with its second converted try.

    Jamie Noon charged down a kick from Bortolussi and passed to Wilkinson who offloaded to Flood, who touched down.

    1,000 points

    Wilkinson's conversion brought up the 1,000-point mark, and two penalty kicks in the final 10 minutes of the half gave England a 20-6 halftime lead.

    Bortolussi cut the gap early in the second half after kicking two penalties before Wilkinson added three more points with his third penalty, and England's last score of the game.

    Richard Wigglesworth made his first England appearance in the 59th when he replaced Andy Gomarsall.

    Five minutes later, Wilkinson went off and was replaced by Cipriani, who made his England debut last week.

    England was without captain Phil Vickery, who was withdrawn shortly before the match with a stomach complaint.

    Matt Stevens started in his place at tighthead prop, with Steve Borthwick taking over as captain.

    Before the match, England had lost five more players; Mike Tindall, David Strettle, Andrew Sheridan, Lewis Moody and Tom Rees through injury or illness.

    On Saturday, France withstood a late comeback from Ireland to win 26-21 and Wales beat Scotland 30-15.

    France leads the standings with four points after two wins from two games, followed by Wales.

    Ireland and England are next with two points, with Italy and Scotland both on zero.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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