England centre made contact with Italian defence in build-up
England controversially had a try ruled out against Italy after an Ollie Lawrence ‘trip’ was flagged as instruction in the build-up to a Jack van Poortvliet score.
Steve Borthwick’s side thought they had unlocked the Italian defence after wing Max Malins carried the ball in one hand and burst through the defensive line.
The Saracens back – who is returning to Bristol Bears next term – passed inside to supporting scrum-half van Poortvliet who went over under the sticks for what looked a nailed-on try.
However, referee James Doleman consulted with the TMO and after a few replays concluded that Bath centre Lawrence made contact with the Italian defender and because he was in front of Malins, the ball carrier, it was worthy of overturning the try.
Luckily for England, they were playing with a penalty advantage so the Lawrence trip wasn’t too costly and skipper Owen Farrell stuck the ball in the corner to give his side another potent attacking platform five metres out.
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And the home side made no mistake, a simple catch and drive allowed hooker Jamie George to bundle over at the back of an unstoppable rolling maul.
That was England’s third score after Jack Willis capped his comeback with the opening score from another powerful drive.
Read more: Jack Willis comeback to remember against Italy
Willis suffered a terrible knee injury in this very fixture two years ago after being croc-rolled out of a ruck but has battled back in rehab. Things did not get easier for the flanker after his club Wasps went into administration but he has found his feet across the channel with Toulouse.
It could have been even better for England, van Poortvliet’s cheeky reverse box kick almost fell perfectly for Farrell but the captain – restored to his preferred fly-half position could not take the ball cleanly.
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That made the score 19-0 to England at the half-time break, where former back rower James Haskell was on hand to provide the pitchside entertainment from the DJ decks.
But Italy hit back after the interval, Marco Riccioni bundling over from close range after a sustained period of pressure.
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