IRELAND ……. 36 PTS
ITALY ………… 6 PTS
Ireland will meet Wales in the quarter-final of the Rugby World Cup next Saturday – after a second-half annihilation of Italy in Dunedin.
Brian O’Driscoll led by example on Sunday with a try as Declan Kidney’s team brushed aside their Six Nations rivals to comfortably win Pool C.
All the doubts about this team were cast aside as Ireland, 9-6 up at the break thanks to three Ronan O’Gara penalties, kept the Italians scoreless in that breathtaking second period.
The much vaunted Italy scrum did cause the Irish some early problems but once Cian Healy turned on the heat in the front row those around him took up the mantle.
Paul O’Connell was awesome in the second row and Sean O’Brien and Stephen Ferris magnificent in the flanker roles as the Green Machine took complete control.
Whatever Kidney said in the dressing-room at the break clearly worked as there was only one team on the pitch in that second 40 minutes.
An O’Gara penalty put Ireland six points up before O’Driscoll’s sublime finish, set up by D’Arcy and Bowe, for the game’s first try in the 48th minute served notice of what was to come.
The game was all but over when Ferris sent Earls in for the second try just five minutes later. Earls then added his second and Ireland’s third try in the final minutes but by then the game was well and truly over as a contest.
The Welsh, hugely impressive in recent weeks, are next up for Ireland in the quarter-finals, a match captain O’Driscoll is looking forward to.
“It’s going to be another great challenge,” said O’Driscoll. “It’s been very close in recent years and it’ll be the team that turns up on the day that goes into the semi-finals.
“We’re delighted with this Italy win. We knew we needed it and I’m glad we were able to deliver in the second-half aided by what has been the best crowd we’ve played in front of so far.”