Italy rout not enough for England
2:46pm Saturday 15th March 2014 in © Press Association 2014
England concluded the 2014 RBS 6 Nations with a resounding 52-11 victory over Italy in Rome, but were powerless to prevent Ireland being crowned champions on points difference.
The deluge of tries at the Stadio Olimpico was insufficient to overhaul the Irish, who seized the title with a nerve-jangling 22-20 win over France in Paris.
England finish runners-up up for the third successive year and are still searching for a first title under head coach Stuart Lancaster, despite their best efforts against Italy.
Mike Brown's sensational Championship continued with his brace of tries decorating a fine individual contribution that resulted in a third man of the match award in four games.
Owen Farrell, Jack Nowell, Mako Vunipola, Manu Tuilagi and Chris Robshaw also crossed in a match dominated by England.
Tuilagi made his first Red Rose appearance in a year after completing his comeback from chest surgery, replacing Luther Burrell at outside centre with half an hour to go, and made inroads into a tiring Italy defence.
Once more Farrell's goalkicking was outstanding with the British and Irish Lion converting all seven tries and also slotting a penalty, but he was lucky to escape a late yellow card after tackling Edoardo Gori around the throat and wrestling him to the ground.
All week England had stated that winning was their only ambition for the climax to their Six Nations, but the attacking intent evident from the kick off told a different story.
At times they played with too much haste and the resulting lack of accuracy affected their momentum, as did the disruptive second-half arrival of their replacements.
Italy drew first blood with a long-range penalty from Luciano Orquera that was greeted with a mighty roar from the sell-out 80,000 crowd.
Farrell leveled the score with a penalty and the Red Rose went on the offensive, rapidly spinning the ball left and right as they probed for weaknesses.
A brilliant offload from Burrell pierced Italy's defence with the Northampton centre's pass out of a tackle by Gonzalo Garcia finding Brown who switched on the afterburners and raced over.
Loosehead Mako Vunipola was penalised at a scrum and Orquera obliged with the three points to keep Italy in touch.
Brown was involved in just about every England move and when Burrell powered into space and fed Danny Care they looked on for a second try, but Italy's cover defence was solid.
Burrell and Care were prominent as England attacked again and this time they were able to cross the whitewash, their scrum-half darting across field and sending Farrell in under the posts.
The floodgates were already opening and this time Farrell was the provider as he rode a tackle and expertly slipped a pass to Brown who galloped over.
Campagnaro took advantage of Burrell being caught out of position to break free amid a promising start to the second half from Italy, but England were soon back on the offensive.
The tempo was lifted but passes were failing to stick, number eight Ben Morgan knocking on at full tilt and Vunipola spilling forward.
Burrell went within a whisker of scoring but the ball was kicked from his grasp by an unconventional late tackle made out of hope rather than expectation.
Italy's problems mounted when Marco Bortolami was sin-binned for off-side and soon after their whitewash was breached for a fourth time, Nowell rounding off a backs move at a scrum.
Adding to their woes was the 53rd minute arrival of Tuilagi from the bench, although the decision to bring him on at the expensive of the superb Burrell was odd.
Italy's defence was falling to pieces and they effectively waved England through for their next two tries with Vunipola and Tuilagi strolling over.
It was then the visitors' turn to blunder, however, with wing Leonardo Sarto picking off an intercept try from Joe Launchbury's pass.
The flow of tries had dried up, but there was still time for one more with captain Robshaw taking Farrell's injury-time pass and coasting over.