England stutter to victory over Italy in Rome

England stuttered to a 17-12 victory over Italy in Rome this afternoon. The lacklustre performance was in stark contrast to last week's victory over Wales at Twickenham.

Despite appearing to have the pace out wide to stretch the Italian defence England persisted with an ineffective kicking game for most of the match.

Italy, in contrast, produced one of their best performances in the Six Nations for a couple of years and looked like a different team from the one that rolled over so easily against Ireland last week.

The teams were tied 6-6 at half time thanks to two penalties apiece from Mirco Bergamasco and Jonny Wilkinson but England were lucky to be level after 40 minutes of tentative and uninspiring rugby.

England weren't helped by a poor display from Wilkinson. The fly-half failed to click with Riki Flutey and had an uncharacteristically bad day with the boot missing two first half penalties and a conversion.

England centre Matthew Tait scored the game's only try when he finished off a move set up by winger Ugo Monye. However, Italy didn't capitulate and were back within two points of the visitors with less than ten minutes on the clock.

Wilkinson atoned for his lack of accuracy earlier on with a late drop-goal to nudge England ahead but Italy had a number of half chances to snatch what would have been a famous victory.

With a wounded Ireland up next in Twickenham in two weeks time Martin Johnson's team are going to have to produce a much improved performance if they hope to secure three wins out of three.

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