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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 August, 2003, 15:47 GMT 16:47 UK
Hickie leads Irish rout
Denis Hickie on his way to his fourth try and Irish record
Ireland (23) 61
Tries: Hickie 4, Kelly, Byrne, Dempsey, Humphreys.
Pens: Humphreys 3
Cons: Humphreys 6
Italy (6) 6
Pens: Peens 2

Ireland 61-6 Italy

Four tries by Denis Hickie helped Ireland cruise to a comfortable victory in a World Cup warm-up game at Thomond Park on Saturday.

Hickie's quartet brought him a new Irish try-scoring record and his efforts were backed up by touchdowns from John Kelly, Girvan Dempsey, Shane Byrne, and David Humphreys.

Fly-half Humphreys had a marvellous afternoon controlling play and contributing 31 points in total.

The Irish side-stepped a potential banana skin in Limerick, but they found Italy's resolute defence difficult to break down in the opening half.

But a 26-point haul in the space of five minutes either side of the break saw them home with plenty to spare.

Italy rarely threatened the Irish line and had to be content with two Gert Peens penalties for their efforts.

The Irish controlled possession in the early stages, but despite some excellent continuity play, failed to make the final execution count.

All they had to show from their early thrust was a brace of penalties by Humphreys while South African-born Peens popped over one for Italy.

Italy came back with a very patient build-up, and only some rare scrambling by the Irish defence held their line intact.

Humphreys relieved the pressure with his third penalty in the 36th minute, but that was matched by Peens on the stroke of half-time.

Everybody played their part in a huge performance. They put in a lot of hard work, particularly the pack
Eddie O'Sullivan
But Ireland finally got the breaks in injury-time with two excellent tries.

First the ball was flashed wide right from a line-out and winger Kelly was given a yard to side-step Peens to dive over.

A minute later a back-row move on the half-way line allowed Hickie, playing his first game of the season, to come in from the left-wing and burn the opposition defence.

Humphreys converted both to give his side a 23-6 advantage at the break.

Ireland pulled away within minutes of the restart with two more tries. A forward drive from a line-out brought a score for hooker Byrne, then a wonderfully-flighted box kick by Humphreys allowed Hickie acres of room to trot over for his second try.

After that it was virtually one-way traffic with Ireland able to go through their patterns.

It was then the Hickie show as his third try equalled the Irish record of 18 tries held by Brian O'Driscoll when his pace again found the Italian defence wanting.

With 10 minutes remaining he had that record all by himself as he destroyed the Italian defence foundering before leaving the field to a standing ovation.

David Humphreys contributed 26 points for Ireland
Humphreys kicked 21 points and scored Ireland's last try
Ireland toyed with Italy and Dempsey and then Humphreys ended the demolition.

It proved a useful work-out for Eddie O'Sullivan's side whose only worry was the sight of winger Kelly being stretchered off near the end and Victor Costello coming off with a hand injury.

O'Sullivan, however, was pleased with the way Hickie stormed back into form.

"He got a few chances and certainly didn't hold back,'' said O'Sullivan.

"It's great to see him in that kind of form again.

"Costello has dislocated a finger and we're not sure if there's a fracture while Kelly has popped a rib cartilage and again we'll know more after the X-ray.

"I thought it was a great all-round performance today and it has thrown up more difficult questions for me, which is great.

"Everybody played their part in a huge performance. They put in a lot of hard work, particularly the pack."

Ireland: G Dempsey; J Kelly, B O'Driscoll, capt, R Henderson, D Hickie; D Humphreys, G Easterby; M Horan, S Byrne, R Corrigan, G Longwell, L Cullen, S Easterby, E Miller, V Costello.
Replacements: P Shields, J Fitzpatrick, D O'Callaghan, K Dawson, B O'Meara, G Murphy, J Bell.

Italy: G Peens, N Mazzucato, C Stoica, M Barbini, D Sacca, F Mazzariol, A Troncon, S Parisse, M Bergamasco, A de Rossi, M Giacheri, C Bezzi, M Castrogiovanni, F Ongaro, A Lo Cicero.
Replacements: C Festuccia, R Martinez, A Persico, M Phillips, M Mazzantini, R Pez, A Masi.

Referee: Steve Lander (RFU).

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