Hodgson sparks England comeback in Italy

England bounced back from a half time deficit to beat Italy 15-19 at a snow covered Stadio Olimpico in the Six Nations on Saturday afternoon.

Charlie Hodgson scored another early second half chargedown try which sparked a comeback from England which coupled with the arrivals of Lee Dickson and Ben Morgan from the bench saved England the blushes.

As much as England’s replacements provided a lift for the team Italy coach Jacques Brunel’s substitution of Kris Burton had a negative effect on Italy as they were awarded two late penalties which replacement kicker Tobias Botes missed but Burton probably would have kicked.

England approached the second half looking comfortable and in the lead but two quick tries right before half time put Italy into a 12-6 lead and the tables had heavily turned on England.

The first points of the second half almost went to Italy but Burton’s drop goal went wide. He later added a penalty to extend the lead and the pressure started to build on England.

Just as Italy looked to be getting some rythmn Charlie Hodgson charged down a clearance kick, regathered the ball and raced away to score.

Farrell converted the try and the pace of the game was immediately lifted when replacement Lee Dickson came on for Ben Youngs swinging the momentum into England’s favour.

Weather conditions continued to prevent a flowing game of rugby as the snow never stopped completely but Italy remained in touch with England and kept up the pressure right to the end.

Owen Farrell impressed again with his kicking and calmness and slotted five from five for England.

“We kept plugging away and upped the tempo in the second half. We didn’t lose our heads and it obviously came good in the end,” said Hodgson.

“We were 15-6 down, to come back and be successful in a place like this against Italy with all their experience shows what (spirit) we have, we’re obviously delighted to get the win.

“We’ve worked hard over the last couple of weeks, with these two victories (after beating Scotland in the first Six Nations weekend). A week off next week and we look forward to the Wales game and see what happens then.”

The game kicked off with a bizarre looking pitch as stewards had cleared one half of the ground of snow but not the other.

In freezing conditions scores were always going to be hard to come by and it was no surprise that both sides struggled to create much.

A clever ball inside from Brad Barritt to Phil Dowson saw England break into the Italy 22 but that came to nothing.

Australian-born Luke McLean broke down the left wing for the hosts but after he popped the ball inside to Andrea Masi, the full-back was hauled down.

Italy were matching England despite some poor tactical kicking from Australian-born fly-half Kris Burton.

But when the Azzurri tried to run the ball, they capitulated.

Captain Sergio Parisse threw away a pass and David Strettle kicked on only to be tripped by Burton, cutting across the England winger.

Farrell knocked over the 40-metre penalty to give England a 3-0 lead after 27 minutes.

Ten minutes later Italy, for whom Leicester prop Martin Castrogiovanni had been forced off with a rib injury, wheeled around a scrum and Farrell scored his second penalty from an identical position.

But right on the stroke of half-time England twice committed suicide and Italy scored two tries.

Benvenutti tried a grubber kick near the England line with the ball bouncing up, hitting Ben Foden in the chest and then being spilled backwards and over the try line by Ben Youngs with Venditti able to pounce on the loose ball to score an unconverted try.

Moments later Foden threw away a pass near halfway as he was tackled by Alessandro Zanni and Benvenutti intercepted before streaking away to score under the posts with Chris Ashton unable to catch him.

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