England pile on more Welsh misery, Mack the Knife slices through Italy in Irish win

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England have piled on the misery for Wales with a 20-10 victory that left the beleaguered hosts nursing a third straight loss to open the Six Nations.

The Welsh haven’t made this poor a start to the championship in 20 years and it continues a tempestuous campaign for the proud rugby nation, after a pre-Six Nations racism and bullying scandal and a contract dispute which dominated the build-up this week.

Saturday’s match between teams well off the title pace never really caught fire in front of the Prince and Princess of Wales, with England always having the measure of a game but limited Wales side at Principality Stadium in Cardiff.

Anthony Watson, on his first England start for two years, went over for the only try of the first half, and prop Kyle Sinckler and centre Ollie Lawrence added more after halftime.

CARDIFF, WALES - FEBRUARY 25: Ollie Chessum of England runs with the ball during the Six Nations Rugby match between Wales and England at Principality Stadium on February 25, 2023 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Ollie Chessum. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Wales’ sole try came from an intercept on halfway, with winger Louis Rees-Zammit motoring clear for the score. 

Warren Gatland’s team were in touching distance of the visitors only because of a rare bad day off the kicking tee by England captain Owen Farrell. He had just two successful efforts from six.

For England coach Steve Borthwick, it’s two wins from three to start his tenure as his team continued to rely on big defence, a solid kick-and-chase game and a strong set-piece — the country’s traditional strengths. 

But France, at home, and Ireland away make for the toughest possible finish to the Six Nations for the English.

Wales, meanwhile, will simply look to avoid a first wooden spoon for last place since 2003 when Gatland’s fellow New Zealander, Steve Hansen, was at the helm.

That could be determined in round four when Wales travel to Rome to play Italy, who have also opened with three straight losses.

Mack the knife slices through Italy for Ireland

Australian wing Mack Hansen has scored a brace of tries for Ireland as they held off a spirited challenge from hosts Italy in Rome to claim a 34-20 bonus-point victory in the Six Nations and stayed on course for the grand slam.

Unbeaten Ireland, who top the Six Nations table with 15 points from three matches, looked as though they would run riot after four tries in the first 35 minutes on Saturday, with lock James Ryan, fullback Hugo Keenan and centre Bundee Aki all scoring before Hansen went over.

Italy took the game to their vaunted visitors though and ran the ball from all positions – sometimes naively – as they scored tries through halfback Stephen Varney and wing Pierre Bruno, but they could not convert when well-placed in the second half.

After Hansen dived over wide on the right five minutes before halftime, the Irish went into the break with a 24-17 lead.

But the game tightened up after the break with Italy flyhalf Paolo Garbisi superb in controlling the tempo for the home side, who continued to impress in defeat in this year’s competition. 

But Canberra’s Hansen, who qualifies for Ireland through Cork-born mother, proved the decisive figure, slipping through the Italian defensive line nine minutes from time to ensure his side claimed a precious, albeit unconvincing, victory.

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