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Last Updated: Saturday, 12 March, 2005, 18:33 GMT
England 39-7 Italy
Mark Cueto
England (22) 39
Tries: Cueto (3), Thompson, Balshaw, Hazell
Cons: Hodgson (2), Goode
Pen: Hodgson
Italy (0) 7
Try: Troncon
Con: Peens
A Mark Cueto hat-trick helped guide an often mis-firing England to their first win of this season's RBS Six Nations over a lacklustre Italy.

Cueto ran in a first-half brace to give his side a 22-0 lead at the break, while Steve Thompson also scored.

After the interval, Alessandro Troncon gave the Azzurri a glimmer of hope with a solo try of his own.

But they then crumbled and England sealed the win with further tries from Cueto, Iain Balshaw and Andy Hazell.

Balshaw, playing his first game for England for a year, was in confident mood from the outset. And it was his burst that helped put Cueto through for try number one after just five minutes.

Charlie Hodgson, who had earlier notched up a penalty, then added a conversion to take England to 10-0.

After the early onslaught, a previously poor Italy settled a little with some telling forward play, but they were devoid of vision and creativity in their back division, so rarely troubled England.

I am pleased with the way we played. The back three, with the way they worked off the ball, were tremendous
England coach Andy Robinson

The hosts looked similarly out of sorts for much of the half, let down by the occasional silly forward pass.

Despite that, they took control late in the half with Thompson's try and a second score from Cueto.

The England hooker trundled and rolled his way over the line, despite the best attempts of the Italian defenders.

But Cueto's 40th-minute try was arguably the highlight of the afternoon. Jamie Noon picked the gap with a sparky run and, after an abundance of slick passing, Cueto managed to swoop down the touchline to cap off a handsome move.

Iain Balshaw
Balshaw scored on his return
Italy were far more fiesty after the restart. First, they drove England's pack some 20 metres upfield and then scored their opening try after a cheeky burst from Troncon.

England, slicker in the second half, looked to have cancelled that out moments later but Balshaw's forward pass to Josh Lewsey after a delightful chip and chase saw the resulting try ruled out by the touch judge.

Balshaw again lost another opportunity on the hour-mark after he and Danny Grewcock failed to pick out an unmarked Lewis Moody.

But the Leeds full-back finally made amends with a deserved five points as England's quick passing once more proved too much for the Italians.

We are in games but are making mistakes at critical times and that's costing us
Italy coach John Kirwan

England's cause got simpler yet as the Azzurri lost both of their hookers to injury (uncontested scrums were then enforced) and their heads dropped in the last quarter.

And that enabled Cueto to complete his hat-trick, the grateful recipient as his team-mates produced another textbook training-ground move through their back division.

The game looked set for a farcical finish when an unchallenged Balshaw knocked the ball on when just centimetres from Italy's line in the final minute.

But Andy Hazell helped disguise his blushes with a try just before the whistle.


England: Balshaw, Cueto, Noon, Barkley, Lewsey, Hodgson, Ellis, Rowntree, Thompson, Stevens, Grewcock, Kay, Worsley, Moody, Corry.
Replacements: Smith for Noon (66), Goode for Hodgson (74), Dawson for Ellis (51), Bell for Rowntree (74), Titterell for Thompson (66), Borthwick for Grewcock (62), Hazell for Worsley (74).

Italy: Peens, Pedrazzi, Barbini, Masi, Nitoglia, Orquera, Troncon, Lo Cicero, Ongaro, Perugini, Del Fava, Bortolami, Persico, Dal Maso, Parisse, Intoppa.
Replacements: Pozzebon for Barbini (40), Intoppa for Ongaro (24), Castrogiovanni for Perugini (56), Dellape for Del Fava (54), Orlando for Dal Maso (40), Savi for Intoppa (62). Not Used: Griffen.

Referee: M Lawrence (South Africa)


WATCH AND LISTEN
Highlights: England 39-7 Italy


Interview: England coach Andy Robinson


Interview: England captain Martin Corry


Interview: England's Mark Cueto



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