Marcus Smith rallies England for a comfortable win over error-prone Italy
- England score five tries and scored two as they run out of easy winners
- Smith puts on another fine display as fly-half dictates procedure
- Italy show character but mistakes hamper any chance of putting England under pressure
Jthis was the answer that England demanded. The wins over Italy should always be seen in context as it was their 34th straight defeat in the Six Nations. And yet here the spring conditions in Rome, England’s improvements in attacking adventure and ruthlessness were notable and kept their Six Nations title hopes alive.
The five-try win puts England above second-place Ireland and with France now the only unbeaten side in the Championship, the final round encounter between the two teams could yet be a title decider .
There was still plenty of room for improvement, and the frustration was England’s inability to maintain the intensity of performance in the final quarter as Italy were allowed back into the game. Yet even with this drop, there will always be satisfaction in the English camp that the white defensive line has remained intact against an Italian side being rebuilt under Kieran Crowley.
It was also when Marcus Smith seemed to impose his authority over England’s attacking play, with a man-of-the-match display.
After all the debate over Eddie Jones’ decision to pull him out of action in the loss to Scotland as England established what appeared to be a winning lead, this time he played the full 80 minutes complete, with George Ford replacing Joe. Marching into midfield in the final five minutes.
The selection of a more balanced backline and the promotion of Alex Dombrandt to No.8 and Harry Randall to scrum-half freed up Smith to maximize the threat of his running game and exquisite distribution, while the pace of Randall added another layer to England’s attack.
The most notable feature, however, was his growing confidence to support his attacking instincts and play with the freedom he enjoyed so successfully at Harlequins – and in doing so, England’s connectivity in the backline improved. improved, eliminating indecision and debauchery from their Murrayfield display.
As Jones notably said afterwards, there’s no cap on what Smith can accomplish on the international stage. That’s quite an assessment from a head coach who is traditionally reluctant to praise young players with precocious talent.
It was Smith who opened the scoring, finishing a nice shot in an exchange with Max Malins and his sumptuous cut pass to Elliot Daly allowed the England winger to secure the bonus point in the 45th minute.