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The BBC's Ian Robertson reports
"England weren't at their best, but they didn't need to be"
 real 28k

Lawrence Dallaglio
"We were disappointed with the first half, but came back well"
 real 28k

Saturday, 18 March, 2000, 19:01 GMT
Healey hat-trick sparks Roman romp

Treble top: Healey races over for a try
Italy 12-59 England

England marched on towards an historic Grand Slam as they claimed a resounding victory in their first Six Nations match against Italy in Rome.

Six Nations Championship
Austin Healey was the star of the show, claiming a hat-trick of tries and setting up two more scores for fellow wing Ben Cohen.

But it was a far from vintage display by the English, who were rattled for long periods in the first half as Italy took a shock early lead.

Italy celebrate taking a surprise early lead
England claimed eight tries in all to secure a comprehensive win that takes them to within one match - against Scotland in two weeks time - of a clean sweep.

The Italians caused England more problems than most of their previous opponents - but after a ragged start Matt Dawson's men broke loose after the break.

Scrum-half Dawson - who added two tries - and former captain Lawrence Dallaglio produced typically impressive displays.

The accuracy might not have been there, but the ambition was. It was a hostile place to play but we put it together in the second half.

England coach Clive Woodward
But a number of England players were below-par - particularly up front, as the Italians mixed it to great effect.

Johnny Wilkinson - normally so deadly with the boot - struggled to cope with swirling winds at the Flaminio stadium and missed a number of straightforward kicks.

Italy stunned the English in the opening minutes as centre Luca Martin was barged over the line following a formidable forward drive to cancel out two Wilkinson penalties and give the home side a 7-6 lead.

Ben Cohen: Two more tries for the young winger
In an ill-disciplined opening tempers became frayed up front and three players were sin-binned in quick succession: Italian forwards Carlo Checchinato and Valter Cristofoletto and England lock Garath Archer.

With the Italians in determined mood, England were for once looking less than assured.

But they at last began to exert some pressure in opposition territory and when Healey was high-tackled by full-back Corrado Pilat just as he was about to dive over the line, the referee awarded a penalty try.

England fans enjoyed their first match in Rome
Neil Back, who was generally quiet in the back row, increased the lead with a surprise drop goal before skipper Dawson claimed England's second try - courtesy of the tap-penalty tactic that has caused so many problems for the opposition throughout the championship.

England went in at half-time 23-7 ahead, but coach Clive Woodward will still have had harsh words for his players at the break.

But they answered in fine style as Healey claimed a superb hat-trick in a wonderful 12-minute spell at the start of the second half.

First the Leicester wing finished off a flowing move in the right-hand corner after Dallaglio made the running in midfield.

Johnny Wilkinson: Struggled with the boot
And he followed that up almost immediately with a stunning solo score. He shrugged off two Italian tackles, then chipped over the top of the remaining defenders and chased through to touch down.

Next, after another Dallaglio break, Wilkinson launched a huge bomb to the far corner and Healey did the rest to claim his treble.

Healey now turned provider, hacking through for Cohen, to sprint over.

Italy were beginning to look battered - but they showed they still had something to offer when wing Christian Stoica scored their second try of the match in the corner.

Stoica did not stick around too long to enjoy his moment of glory, however, as he soon became the fourth player to be sin-binned.

Four players were sin-binned in a fiesty game
England again made the most of their numerical advantage as the impressive Healey launched a break from his own 22 and sent Cohen down the left wing for his second try.

The quick-thinking Dawson scored England's eighth try, ghosting over from a cheeky line-out move.

That completed the rout and left the English to focus on a tense trip to Murrayfield on April 2 with the first ever Six Nations Championship - and the Grand Slam - at stake.

Teams:

Italy: C Pilat; C Stoica, N Zisti, Luca Martin, D Dallan; D Dominguez, A Troncon (captain); A De Rossi, M Bergamasco, W Cristofoletto, A Gritti, C Checchinato, T Paoletti, A Moscardi, A Lo Cicero.

Replacements: C Orlandi, M Cuttitta, O Arancio, A Persico, M Mazzantini, G Preo, A Scavanacca. .

England: M Perry (Bath); A Healey (Leicester), M Tindall (Bath), M Catt (Bath), B Cohen (Northampton); J Wilkinson (Newcastle), M Dawson (Northampton, capt); J Leonard (Harlequins), P Greening (Wasps), D Garforth (Leicester), G Archer (Bristol), S Shaw (Wasps), R Hill (Saracens), N Back (Leicester), L Dallaglio (Wasps).

Replacements: N McCarthy (Gloucester), T Woodman (Gloucester), J Worsley (Wasps), M Corry (Leicester), A Gomarsall (Bedford), A King (Wasps), I Balshaw (Bath).

Referee: Allan Lewis (Ireland).

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