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Hugo Keenan shines on debut as Ireland thrash Italy

Ireland kept their 2020 Six Nations title hopes alive with a big win over Italy on Saturday, afte...



Ireland kept their 2020 Six Nations title hopes alive with a big win over Italy on Saturday, after eight months since their last test match.

Ireland came into the round four encounter knowing that they needed a bonus point win in each of their next two matches to win the championship this year.

Andy Farrell had named two debutants in his starting XV, with a further two on the bench.

Ireland were caught off guard in the first three minutes of the match, with Italy breaking through their defensive line to earn great attacking position.

A last ditch tackle from Conor Murray saved a near certain try, however he was deemed to have not released the tackle before contesting at the breakdown ad was shown a yellow for his efforts.

Paolo Garbisi gave Italy the first three points of the game with his successful penalty.

Ireland did not let the early sin-bin get to them, however, as they immediately heaped the pressure on the visitors. Johnny Sexton turned down a near-certain three points, opting instead to kick for touch.

CJ Stander of Ireland scores his side's first try during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Ireland and Italy at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. CJ Stander of Ireland scores his side's first try during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Ireland and Italy at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

After a couple of phases from the lineout, CJ Stander powered his way over the line to score the first try of the match, with 14 men on the pitch. Sexton slotted the conversion to take the hosts further into the lead.

With Murray back on the pitch, Ireland continued to apply pressure on the Italian side. A number of penalties at the breakdown allowed Ireland to maintain their field position inside the Italian half.

Despite their dominance at the breakdown and favourable field position, it took until the half hour mark for Ireland to add to their score.

Their dominance finally paid off after a lineout set up a skip pass out to Hugo Keenan on debut. The Leinster winger stepped in off his wing before powering through a tackle and scoring in the corner.

He was denied his second try of the match just two minutes later, after a break away from Jacob Stockdale on the counter-attack was called back by the TMO for obstruction.

The debutant managed his second try five minutes later, though, as Caelan Doris earned another turnover in his side's 22m before getting in the hands of Murray.

Murray chipped the ball on for Keenan to chase into the corner for his second try on debut. The hosts ran off the pitch at halftime 24-3 in front.

Italy built up the phases in the opening ten minutes of the second half, camping inside Ireland's half.

Their pressure finally resulted in points for the visitors, as Edoardo Padovani intercepted a pass from Sexton off of a scrum to run in untouched. Garibisi closed the gap for the visitors, taking them back within 14 points.

With an hour played, Ireland remained in search of the all-important bonus point.

Jonathan Sexton of Ireland dives over to score his side's fifth try during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Ireland and Italy at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Jonathan Sexton of Ireland dives over to score his side's fifth try during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Ireland and Italy at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Not to be outdone by his fellow debutant, Will Connors scored his first international try, securing Ireland's bonus point, with just less than 20 minutes to play.

The floodgates seemed to open after that, as Ireland ran rampant through the Italian defence. Sexton bashed his way over the line, before Bundee Aki added his name to the scoresheet three minutes later.

Farrell's men broke the half-century after Dave Heffernan scored from the back of a maul with less than a minute left to go.

Italy regathered the restart, however. Garibisi made his mark in his debut, as he broke through the Irish defence to get the final say in the game.

Full time, Ireland 50-17 Italy.

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2020 Six Nations Andy Farrell Hugo Keenan Ireland Ireland Vs Italy Italy Six Nations