6 Nations: Ireland 42-10 Italy

Tommy Bowe led the assault as Ireland thrust themselves back into RBS 6 Nations title contention with a comprehensive victory over Italy.

Ireland vs Italy: Tommy Bowe

Bowe crossed in each half to move third in the all-time list of Irish try-scorers with 22, trailing Brian O'Driscoll and Denis Hickie.

The rout was initiated by Keith Earls, who celebrated his return following the recent birth of his first child by slipping over in the 16th minute, with Tom Court and Andrew Trimble also touching down.

Fly-half Jonathan Sexton finished with 17 points in a flawless afternoon and was joined in the second half by Ronan O'Gara, who surpassed O'Driscoll to become Ireland's most capped player with 118 appearances.

Sexton was the official man of the match, but he must have been run close by Rob Kearney who lit up the Aviva Stadium with a succession of darting runs from full-back that troubled Italy's defence throughout.

While the scoreboard points to an easy afternoon, Ireland made heavy work of it and at times were guilty of over-elaborating.

But coach Declan Kidney will otherwise be pleased with a comfortable victory that has provided some positive news in an otherwise ill-fated campaign.

Since losing to Wales on February 5 thanks to a penalty that a disciplinary hearing later admitted should not have been awarded, they have since seen their clash with France postponed at the last minute and lost their forwards coach Gert Smal for the rest of the championship due to an eye condition.

Flanker Stephen Ferris believes Ireland moved up another level with their performance in Dublin.

"It was a good team performance," Ferris told BBC One.

"It was great to get the victory. It was well needed.

"We talked about putting in a big performance and the tries came in the end, that's the main thing. I think we brought ourselves on to another level."

Italy coach Jacques Brunel admitted the Azzurri paid the price for a poor second-half display that saw Ireland run in three of their five tries.

"We had two different teams out there. In the first half we tried to play and kept the score close," said the Frenchman.

"But in the second half it was completely different, we suffered beneath the Irish pressure and made many mistakes."

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