England beat Italy despite the only try coming from the visitors, with all of England’s points scored by Toby Flood.
It was a bright enough start from England, with collapsing Italian scrum in the first few minutes giving England their first three points on the board in the first three minutes.
England almost dealt the visitors a blow after a charge-down just defeated the dive of Mike Brown from an attempted clearance by Giovanbattista Vendetti.
Italy, perhaps feeling the pressure of the pace of England’s play, gave away another penalty just shy of 15 minutes, which allowed Flood to capably double the score line.
It was just a brief stretch of the lead, as a penalty for Italy brought the score back down as Italy found themselves the England half for the first time in the match.
England then were caught napping and the Azzuri wasted no time in making a run down the wing before an England knockback pulled them up short.
England had a lucky escape with another shortlived Italian scrum.
Perhaps that was the jolt they needed to advance again on the Italian half and the best chance England had so far for a score was thwarted by the scrambling Italian defence, holding Flood up over the touchline.
England had their best chance to dominate after 30 minutes, when Edoardo Gori fouled Flood after a charge down, earning a penalty just on the Italian 22, and another three points kicked by Flood.
In the final minute of the first half, England again showed their level of build-up play, but again just could not quite finish off the chance, but finished off with another Flood penalty to leave England leading Italy 12-3 at the interval.
At the restart, an early penalty to England help stretch the lead, but from that point on, the momentum for most of the second half rested firmly with Italy.
Italy crept back with a second penalty from Luciano Orquera.
The honours of the opening try, though, went to the visitors after a disastrous line-out left the England wing exposed, making it easy for Luke McLean to get the try, with Orquera missing the conversion.
England seemed to have lost their way, and Italy were making all the aggressive play.
England just managed to stay ahead a score line with another Flood penalty with a little under 20 minutes left.
With ten minutes left on the clock all the momentum was with Italy with England having to defend attack after attack from the Azzuri.
The look on the England team’s faces said it all at the final whistle – cheeks puffed out and looks of sheer relief on a lot of exhausted faces.
England will count themselves extremely lucky to have won, and there is a lot to think about ahead of the title showdown in Cardiff.
The final round for all matches is on Saturday 16 March 2013.
Italy v Ireland (Stadio Olimpico)
Wales v England (Millenium Stadium)
France v Scotland (Stade de France)
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