May 26, 2013
England scrape past Italy with six Flood penalties
A disjointed and error-strewn England needed a brilliant goalkicking display by Toby Flood to beat Italy 18-11 at Twickenham and set up a Six Nations championship decider against Wales in Cardiff next Saturday.
England will have to play a lot better than on Sunday to secure a win that would give them their first grand slam since 2003 and their second title in three years while Wales, who beat Scotland 28-18 on Saturday for their third tournament win, would retain their title if they won by eight points.
Flyhalf Flood, playing instead of the injured Owen Farrell, scored England's points as he landed all six of his penalty attempts but Italy played most of the rugby and completely dominated the second half, scoring the only try through winger Luke McLean.
England led 12-3 at halftime but, instead of pouring on the points to make Wales' task tougher, they were forced to defend for long periods, often desperately, against a team who had lost by an average of almost 35 points on every previous Twickenham Six Nations visit.
"We will have to be a lot better than that," England coach Stuart Lancaster told the BBC looking ahead to next week's showdown. "It will be a big step up.
"I'm disappointed we weren't quite accurate enough. We let the control slip in the second half and Italy pushed us right to the end."
England actually started full of running as, despite a freezing arctic wind blowing through Twickenham, it was dry and firm underfoot.
However, they struggled to turn that early dominance into points and lost their way, even when Italy were reduced to 14 men after Italian scrumhalf Edoardo Gori was sin-binned.
Four Flood penalties to one by Luciano Orquera had the hosts 12-3 ahead at the break with the crowd ruing three excellent try-scoring opportunities wasted by poor execution or decision-making.