England’s under-20s’ grand slam hopes remain on course after an emphatic 46-0 victory over Italy at the Northern Echo Arena.
It was the home side’s third consecutive bonus point win in this year’s competition and now cements their place at the top of the Six Nations table.
England made six changes following the 37-21 win in Wales a fortnight earlier with new hooker Jamie Blamire first on the scoresheet after an Italian overthrow at the lineout early on.
Pressure continued to build on the Italian defence who eventually succumbed to the power and strength of England’s rolling maul allowing back-row Ben Curry to get over the whitewash with help from the TMO.
The England back row worked in harness to continue the barrage with captain Zach Mercer at the heart of England’s play in both attack and defence. The Bath no.8 demonstrated his attacking prowess with a fine try from the back of the scrum five metres out.
Fly-half Jacob Umaga failed to convert giving the home side a 17-0 lead at half time. But the break failed to do the Italians any favours, with England starting the second forty as they finished the first.
A deft grubber kick close to the Italian line landed perfectly in the hands of winger Sam Aspland-Robinson to register their fourth try and securing the third consecutive try bonus point in the competition.
England’s back row continued to play havoc on their visitors and it was once again the fine work of Mercer who had a hand in both of Josh Bayliss’ tries.
At 29-0 the Italian discipline had again let them down – two yellow cards only added to England’s thirst to maintain the intensity and energy in attack. Gaps began to open all over the field with hosts providing an expansive off-loading game that eventually gave full back Tom Parton the space to dive over for his side’s seventh try.
But the home side failed to release the pressure and finished just as strongly. Parton once again given the space for an easy touchdown in the corner on the stroke of full time to finish the game 46-0.
With three consecutive bonus points from their games in the championship, this is a side that continue to impress and are starting to look like genuine grand slam material. Man of the match Curry epitomised the work rate and power of the England back row.
But England’s focus will turn to a Scotland side that will offer some stiff resistance in two weeks’ time as England look to secure only their third grand slam title.