A lacklustre Ireland struggled to put away Italy in Saturday's RBS Six Nations opener at Lansdowne Road.
Ireland: (10) 26
Tries: Flannery, Bowe
Cons: O'Gara 2
Pens: O'Gara 4
Italy: (10) 16
Pens: Pez 2, Griffen
It was all square at the break, with a stubborn Italian side scoring through a Mirco Bergamasco try and the Irish replying through hooker Jerry Flannery.
Winger Tommy Bowe put Ireland ahead with a controversial second-half try, while Ronan O'Gara contributed two conversions and four penalties.
Paul Griffen and Ramiro Pez replied with second-half penalties for Italy.
A fired-up Italy started the half positively, and throughout the opening 40 minutes hassled and harried Ireland into a litany of mistakes.
Although the Irish showed from the opening whistle that they would be playing the wide channels, they were easily bottled up by a no-nonsense Italian defence.
Ireland failed to gain superiority up front, with a very ragged line-out allowing Italy to wrestle away territorial advantage.
And it was Italy who deservedly took the lead in the 12th minute with the excellent Pez tapping over a penalty.
With the Italian pack showing great commitment up front, Ireland struggled to gain a foothold in the opposition half.
It took a typical steal by O'Connell at an Italian line-out to nudge Ireland ahead with Flannery, making his first international start, being hauled over the line. O'Gara converted after earlier fluffing a 40-metre penalty.
But Italy stormed back into the lead in the 29th minute when Pez skipped through a hole between O'Gara and Gordon D'Arcy to set up the try by Bergamasco.
Brian O'Driscoll atempts to break the tackle of Gonzalo Canale
Pez converted but after a late tackle the Perpignan fly-half was yellow-carded, and O'Gara knocked over the penalty to level the game at the break.
Griffen inched Italy ahead with a penalty on the restart as the Azzuri stretched the Ireland defence.
Ireland began to find a little more space in an often cluttered midfield with D'Arcy beginning to cause problems.
However, it was Bowe who gave the Irish the lead again in the 54th minute when he took a cross-field kick from O'Gara to dodge past Cristian Stoica and go over, although it appeared that he did not actually ground the ball.
O'Gara converted and knocked over a couple of penalties with Pez also squeezing in one of his own as Ireland moved seven points ahead.
Pez missed a simple penalty that would have made the dying minutes interesting, before O'Gara made the game safe for a thankful Irish with his fourth penalty in the 76th minute.
Ireland: Murphy; S Horgan, O'Driscoll, capt, D'Arcy, Bowe; O'Gara, Stringer; Horan, Flannery, Hayes, O'Kelly, O'Connell, Easterby, Wallace, Leamy.
Replacements: O'Callaghan for O'Kelly (62). Not used: R Best, S Best, O'Connor, Reddan, Humphreys, Trimble.
Italy: Stoica; Canavosio, Canale, Mirco Bergamasco, Nitoglia; Pez, Griffen; Perugini, Ongaro, Nieto, Dellape, Bortolami, capt, Sole, Mauro Bergamasco, Parisse.
Replacements: Castrogiovanni for Nieto (68), Del Fava for Bortolami (68), Persico for M. Bergamasco (62). Not Used: Festuccia, Lo Cicero, Picone, Wakarua.
Sin Bin: Pez (39).
Referee: Dave Pearson (RFU).