Ireland again kept their opponents to one try in a match played in teeming rain in Santry near Dublin, victory earning them a higher ranking in the main World Cup draw at the end of the month, both nations having already booked their passage to England in 2021.
Ireland head coach Stuart Littler noted: “We spoke before the tournament that the first objective was to qualify and then that we wanted to win the group, and put our best foot forward in building some momentum over the next two years leading up to the World Cup.
“We’ve got a young, exciting side that really didn’t look troubled today, irrespective of the weather. With James Mulvaney on debut, we had more domestic players than the rules required and are trying to build something.”
On a boggy pitch, Ireland got off to a flyer when skipper Bob Beswick cut up the middle and an inside pass gave prop Pat Moran the opportunity to open the scoring.
Italy had a god spell but that was undone in the 52nd minute when captain Brendan Santi was sin binned for dissent, Ireland losing the ball over the line as they tried to capitalise, nor benefitting from a Keyes 40/20.
“We took this as seriously as the Spanish game, whether we’d qualified or not,” Italy head coach Leo Epifania said. “We set a standard for ourselves and it was another courageous defensive effort.”
IRELAND 25 : Ethan Ryan, Matty Coade, Zac McComb, James Bentley, Roland Podesta, Gregg McNally, Joe Keyes, Liam Byrne, Bob Beswick, Pat Moran, Frankie Halton, Tyrone McCarthy, George King : Subs: James Mulvaney, Ronan Michael, Danny Bridge, Michael Ward : Tries: Moran (3, 15), King (11), McNally (74) : Goals: Podesta 4 : F/goal: Keyes
ITALY 4 : Samuel Dolores, Emanuele Passera, Ethan Natali, Rinaldo Palumbo, Richard Lepori, Gus Garzaniti, Jack Campagnolo, Alec Susino, Joseph Tranmantana, Brendan Santi, Ryan King, Alexander Myles, Gioele Celerino : Subs: Daniel Petralia, Anton Iaria, Rhys Sciglitano, Johm Trimboli : Try: Tramontana (7) : Sin bin: Santi (52 – dissent)
Half time: 18-4 : Referee: Liam Moore (England)