The scrum-half got his team off to the perfect start in their Six Nations match against Italy
Ben Youngs marks 100th England cap with two tries against Italy
The postponement of the championship back in March due to the coronavirus meant the scrum-half had to wait more than seven months to become only the second man to reach a century of appearances for England – Jason Leonard the other – but he wasted little time in crossing the whitewash in Rome, getting his first try inside five minutes.
Yet there was not the one-way traffic that many expected in this ‘Super Saturday’ fixture at Stadio Olimpico and England were not able to secure the vital bonus point until the 67th minute.
England’s biggest Six Nations win over Italy was 80-23 in 2001 while they have an average winning margin of more than 33 points in their last seven encounters, but they found life much tougher on this occasion with the Azzurri clearly motivated to deliver in their final championship match of 2020.
A Jake Polledri try for Italy meant England led only 10-5 at the break and they looked rusty – understandable given that this was the first time they have played together since March after the cancellation of the Barbarians fixture last weekend meant they were denied a warm-up fixture.
They eventually got that all-important bonus-point try, but they will have to wait to find out if they will win a third Six Nations title in five years under Eddie Jones because France and Ireland, who meet in Paris in the late kick-off, are also in with a chance of lifting the trophy.
Related: France v Ireland preview
England were hoping to post a big score in Rome to put pressure on the other contenders and we’ll know whether a winning margin of 29 is enough in a few hours’ time.
Ireland are the only team with fate in their own hands – win with a bonus point, beat France by seven points or beat France by six points while scoring a try and they lift the trophy. The French need to beat Ireland by 31 points and secure a try bonus point if they are to win a first Six Nations title since 2010. For England, it is now a waiting game.
The opening try in Rome came in the fifth minute. England captain Owen Farrell made a break on halfway and Youngs was on hand in support to run under the posts for his 15th Test try.
Youngs, who made his Test debut back in 2010, crossed again in the first minute of the second half. That score came after a Jonny Hill chargedown, which gave England possession deep in the Italy half. Youngs dummied through two Italian defenders and then rounded Matteo Minozzi to cross the line…
Hooker Jamie George was also making a milestone appearance in Rome, winning his 50th England cap, and he too marked the occasion with a try. He scored England’s third from a driving maul in the 51st minute, although there was initially some confusion over where the try-line was with a sponsor’s logo also in the vicinity.
Tom Curry got the crucial fourth try when he broke down the blindside from a ruck and scored in the corner while Henry Slade added a little gloss to the scoreboard with a fifth in the final ten minutes. Now it’s over to France and Ireland.
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