It’s time for another delve into the archives as we look at a classic Six Nations match from yesteryear.
This week we are off to Rome, where Italy claimed their only Six Nations win to date against Ireland in 2013 at a raucous Stadio Olimpico.
The Azzurri have not got a great record against the Men in Green but on a pleasant spring day they produced one of their great Six Nations performances.
Setting the scene
Ireland had made a flying start to the 2013 Championship by beating the defending champions Wales 30-22 in an enthralling contest at Principality Stadium.
However, their form dipped as the competition progressed and both England and Scotland go the better of them in low-scoring affairs.
Ireland and France then drew 13-13 in Round Four, leaving Declan Kidney’s men in the rare position of having just one win by the final round.
Meanwhile, Italy also opened their campaign with an impressive win – seeing off Les Bleus at home thanks in part to a man-of-the-match display from fly-half Luciano Orquera.
Away defeats to Scotland and England and a home loss to Wales followed but their performances had been good and a second win was in their sights.
Having just lost a physical contest to England at Twickenham six days before, Italy coach Jacques Brunel made two changes to his side – bringing in prop Andrea Lo Cicero and flanker Simone Favaro.
It was to be Lo Ciciero’s last ever appearance for the Azzurri, with the 36-year-old retiring from international duty after the Championship.
Ireland suffered a major blow on the eve of the match with the news that influential fly-half Jonathan Sexton was ruled out with a foot injury.
Head coach Declan Kidney kept faith with most of the side that drew with France, bringing in wing Craig Gilroy for Fergus McFadden.
How the action unfolded
Ireland hit the front early, with fly-half Paddy Jackson scoring an early penalty but opposite number Orquera hit two of his own as the hosts won three quick penalties at the breakdown.
Sergio Parisse was, as ever, particularly influential while the strength of their front five secured set-piece dominance.
The injuries to Keith Earls and Luke Marshall disrupted Ireland even further and they went down to 14 when Championship’s all-time top try-scorer Brian O’Driscoll, playing his last match in Rome, was sin-binned.
It got even worse when Luke Fitzgerald went down injured and the visitors were forced to field flanker Peter O’Mahony on the wing as they adjusted to the crisis.
Still, Jackson was the next to score with a penalty but eventually Italy made their man advantage count and powerful wing Giovanbattista Venditti rumbled over for short-range for his first try of the tournament.
With Ireland struggling for rhythm it looked like that might be enough until Parisse was sin-binned and Jackson booted three more penalties to cut the lead to just one point.
Ireland piled on the pressure but Italy were resolute and when Donnacha Ryan was sin-binned Orquera nailed the resulting penalty.
Scrum-half Conor Murray became Ireland’s third player to be yellow-carded in the dying seconds and Orquera again slotted through a penalty to wrap it all up.
What they said
Ireland head coach Kidney: “I wanted to get a result out of today, we didn’t manage to do that and we’ll reflect on it over the coming days and weeks.
“I’d have to sit down and think about whether I want a new contract. These guys are a pleasure to work with, but beyond that I’d have to sit back and think about it.”
Italy captain Sergio Parisse: “We’ve won against two countries who have a much longer history of the game than us. It’s a good sign.”
Italy head coach Jacques Brunel on Lo Ciciero: “He is a player of particular strength. He has been a great player over 12 years and over 100 caps, and being in his condition at his age is fantastic.”
What happened next
Kidney stepped down from his role with Joe Schmidt taking over, and the former Leinster boss has enjoyed great success with two straight titles followed by the 2018 Grand Slam.
Italy, meanwhile, finished fourth overall, making it the first time they had won two matches in a single Championship since 2007.
Italy 22 Tries: Venditti Conversions: Orquera Penalties: Orquera (4)
Ireland 15 Penalties: Jackson (5)
Italy: Masi, Venditti, Canale, Garcia, McLean, Orquera, Gori, Lo Cicero, Ghiraldini, Geldenhuys, Furno, Zanni, Favaro, Parisse. Replacements: Giazzon, Rizzo, De Marchi, Pavanello, Minto, Derbsyhire, Botes, Benvenuti.
Ireland: Kearney, Gilroy, O’Driscoll, L Marshall, Earls, Jackson, Murray, Healy, Best, Ross, McCarthy, Ryan, O’Mahony, O’Brien, Heaslip. Replacements: Cronin, Kilcoyne, Archer, Toner, Henderson, P Marshall, Madigan, Fitzgerald.