RWC: Ireland top Pool C

Ireland has finished the pool stage of the competition with a comprehensive 36-6 win over Italy at Otago Stadium on Sunday.

Ireland were superior up front and had too much class in the backs as they clinched a popular victory in front of 28,000 fans.

Ronan O’Gara kicked 16 points as Ireland made easy work of the Azzurri, with a scoring blitz early in the second half to lift themselves over Australia in the Pool C standings.

Italy competed well in the first half, like they did against the Wallabies, but the pace of the match told and they missed out on their dream of becoming the first Italian team to qualify for the quarter-finals of a World Cup.

The game was in the balance at half-time but Ireland were all over the Azzurri and in the second stanza, running in 27 unanswered points to set up a quarter-final clash with Wales in Wellington on Saturday.

O’Gara got Ireland on the board first when he kicked a penalty goal on seven minutes.

Italy were pressing hard in the scrums, and were rewarded with a penalty and Mirco Bergamasco converted to level the scores.

Ireland again took the lead when O’Gara kicked a penalty, before Bergamasco leveled once more with his second penalty after a collapsed Irish maul.

Neither side was able to gain any significant ascendancy but O’Gara regained the lead for Ireland with a penalty from in front after 34 minutes.

Italy had a chance to level the scores on the stroke of half-time, but Jonathan Kaplan reversed what would have been an easy penalty when an Italian forward threw a punch.

It was Tommy Bowe who finally cracked the Italian defence when he ran a good line, broke a tackle and offloaded to Brian O’Driscoll who ran 20m to the posts. O’Gara converted to make it 19-6.

Ireland were rampant and they scored another five minutes later when Keith Earls scored after a great run by inside centre Gordon D’Arcy.

Ireland made victory even sweeter in the final minute with a beautifully-taken try by Earls in the left corner which was converted by Sexton.

Ireland 36
Tries: O’Driscoll, Earls 2
Cons: O’Gara 2, Sexton
Pens: O’Gara 4, Sexton

Italy 6
Pens: Mirco Bergamasco 2