Sergio Parisse celebrated the conclusion of Italy’s most successful Six Nations after Ireland were beaten in Rome.
Scorers: Italy: Try: Venditti. Conversion: Orquera. Pens: Orquera 4. Ireland: Pens: Jackson 5.
It was the Azzurri’s first victory in the fixture since joining the tournament in 2000 and, combined with their triumph over France, it completed their greatest overall championship performance.
They also registered two wins in 2007 – against Scotland and Wales – but Parisse insisted the quality of opposition they have mastered this year sets 2013 apart.
“You can’t compare this Six Nations with 2007 because we have secured wins against two squads with a lot of history, two of the strongest in the world,” the Italy captain said.
“We play France and Ireland in the group stage of the 2015 World Cup and we have sent a strong message to them.”
Wing Giovambattista Venditti burrowed over for the game’s only try in the 49th minute but Italy could have finished with several more and were grateful that Luciano Orquera had brought his kicking boots.
If, as expected, this was to be Brian O’Driscoll’s last match for Ireland, it was not the way to end such a celebrated career as the finest player his country has produced. Apart from the result, O’Driscoll spent ten minutes in the sin-bin for stamping and was fortunate to escape a red card. Donnacha Ryan and Conor Murray were also sin-binned and, from an early stage, the Irish were in disarray, plugging holes left by injury and crumbling before a fired-up Italian side inspired by their omnipresent skipper Parisse and retiring prop Andrea Lo Cicero.
Lo Cicero, Italy’s most capped player who was appearing in his final Test, drank in the applause as he departed in the final quarter and he could have envisaged few better outcomes than this for his send-off.
But this result will surely spell the end of Ireland head coach Declan Kidney, whose contract expires in the summer. Even allowing for a disastrous injury situation, it is doubtful that defeat to Italy will be deemed acceptable to Kidney’s paymasters.
Orquera’s four penalties and the conversion of Venditti’s try were more than enough, with Ireland’s points coming from five Paddy Jackson penalties.
Italy: Masi, Venditti, Canale, Garcia, McLean, Orquera, Gori; Lo Cicero, Ghiraldini, Cittadini, Geldenhuys, Furno, Zanni, Favaro, Parisse (capt).
Ireland: Kearney, Gilroy, O’Driscoll, Marshall, Earls, Jackson, Murray; Healy, Best, Ross, McCarthy, Ryan, O’Mahony, O’Brien, Heaslip (capt).