Ashton scores four tries in rout

England beat Italy 59-13 as they bid for first Six Nations title since 2003 before Wales get win against Scotland.

    Ashton laughs with Nick Easter after bundling over the tryline for his hat-trick at Twickenham [GALLO/GETTY]

    Red-hot winger Chris Ashton scored four tries as England produced an eight-try 59-13 demolition of Italy to maintain their push for a first Six Nations title since 2003.

    Ashton, who scored both England's tries in last week's opening win in Wales, got the first two on Saturday as, after further scores by Mark Cueto and Mike Tindall, the hosts built a commanding 31-6 half time lead.

    A solid scrum, dominant lineout and another excellent show by fly half Toby Flood kept England on top throughout at Twickenham on Saturday.

    Ashton took his career tally to nine in nine Tests with another brace in the second half and further tries to Danny Care and James Haskell plus a perfect return of eight conversions by Flood and Jonny Wilkinson, brought them home.

    Italy managed two early penalties by Mirco Bergamasco and a late pushover try by replacement hooker Fabio Ongaro.

    But after coming close against Ireland last week it is back to the drawing board for coach Nick Mallett.


    England had surged into the lead with a try after only three minutes, when a sniping run from scrum half Ben Youngs sent Flood racing clear.

    The in-form Leicester fly half drew the last Italian defender to put Ashton in under the posts for the winger's third try of the championship.

    Results & fixtures

    Saturday February 12

     England 59-13 Italy
     Scotland 6-24 Wales 

    Sunday February 13

    Ireland v France

    Ashton risked the wrath of England manager Martin Johnson however after rounding off the score with his trademark swallow dive – something the team management had warned him against doing following the win over Wales last week.

    Flood added the conversion but Italy hit back immediately when Mirco  Bergamasco coolly slotted a penalty after England infringed at the restart.

    A penalty from Flood restored England's seven-point lead but again Italy responded with a penalty from Bergamasco.

    England, fielding the youngest starting front row in their history  following the late call-up of loosehead Alex Corbisiero for Andrew Sheridan, looked more than comfortable in the set piece.

    But their attempts to impose themselves were undermined early on by basic errors and they had to wait until the 25-minute mark before they reasserted their dominance.

    Burst through

    A superb forward drive saw Youngs spin a flat pass to Shontayne Hape, and the powerful New Zealand-born centre burst through flimsy Italian tackling before feeding Ashton for his second.

    Flood added the conversion to make it 17-6 and soon afterwards England were threatening the Italian line again.

    A clever midfield move pulled the Italian defence apart, Youngs feeding Flood, who popped inside to Cueto for a converted score which made it 24-6.

    A desperate opening period for Italy got worse just before half time when England scored their fourth try.

    From a quick line-out ball on the 22, Youngs found number eight Nick Easter, who punched a hole in the Italian midfield and fed Tindall, who  barrelled over the line for another converted score to make it 31-6 at the break.

    The second half saw England turn the screw, Italy quickly in trouble when prop Martin Castrogiovanni was sinbinned for delaying a quick England penalty.

    Ashton completed his hatrick on 54 minutes, scrambling over from close range after a strong run from replacement Matt Banahan.

    Perhaps with one eye on their clash with France later this month, Johnson then withdrew half backs Youngs and Flood for Care and Wilkinson.

    Care quickly made his mark, waltzing through from close range before Wilkinson added the conversion.

    Italy drove over for a late consolation score from Fabio Ongaro before  Haskell's effort and Ashton's long range fourth – completed with yet another swallow dive – crowned England's win.

    Wales win

    Shane Williams scored the only two tries of the match as Wales finally showed glimpses of the form that has eluded them in recent games to beat Scotland 24-6 at Murrayfield.

    It was Wales' first win in eight games since beating Italy last March and followed defeat in the opening round against England last week.

    "I thought we were clinical today and defended really well. We thoroughly deserved to win the match," said coach Warren Gatland.

    Gatland's sense of humour was tested in the build-up to the game when the under-fire New Zealander was played Queen and David Bowie's 1981 hit song "Under Pressure" on the team bus.

    "You have to rise to the challenge. It's a test of character, but you have to show a bit of humour." he said.

    "They played the David Bowie song on the coach, so you have to smile and laugh. I haven't been able to get that song out of my head for the last two days."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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