Mack Hansen got his Championship account up and running with a well-taken double to claim the Guinness Six Nations Player of the Match award as Ireland downed Italy 34-20 in Rome.
Hansen has had to watch on as Hugo Keenan and James Lowe have both starred in the opening two rounds with key tries of their own.
But at the Stadio Olimpico it was Hansen’s turn to shine, a try in each half helping Ireland hold off the hosts in a hard-fought battle.
Aside from his brace, Hansen made 76 metres from 12 carries in a busy afternoon, also making three tackles and winning a turnover as Ireland won their third consecutive match with a try bonus point.
But despite them sitting at the top of the table with 15 points ahead of Scotland and France doing battle tomorrow, Hansen knew just how difficult the clash with Italy was going to be.
The Connacht winger said: “It was patchy in the first half and as soon as we got on top, you could see what Italy could do.
“They came back with a late try at the end there to get themselves back into the game and they are a team that keeps on coming so we knew it was going to be difficult in the second half and it was.
“They play with so much emotion, and you can get caught up in that sometimes, so I think composure is a great way to describe it.
“It is what we needed and when we felt like we were down, we were able to take a breath and get back into it and it is good to see all the work we have been doing come together today.”
Ireland are now two matches away from the Grand Slam and face Scotland in Edinburgh in Round 4 before a potential title-winning match in Dublin against England on Super Saturday.
Hansen is hoping there will be a strong Irish contingent inside BT Murrayfield, where the Triple Crown will be up for grabs.
He added: “We have not been thinking too much about Edinburgh to be honest, it was all about this week, but that is going to be another tough one away.
“BT Murrayfield is an amazing stadium to play at and it would be great if people can make the trip over for that. We are pumped for that.”