Rising star Jordan Larmour scored a hat-trick as Six Nations champions Ireland outclassed Italy 54-7 in their Autumn Series international at Soldier Field on Saturday.
Leinster fullback Larmour produced an electrifying individual display to delight the Chicago crowd, scoring three tries and setting up another in a convincing Irish victory.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt had named an experimental line-up after opting to rest several first choice players ahead of matches against Argentina, New Zealand and the United States.
And the 21-year-old Larmour seized his chance to shine in the absence of regular No. 15 Rob Kearney with a superb display in a comfortable win.
Ireland ran in eight tries in total, with Italy dotting down just once.
Six of Ireland’s tries came in the second-half when they upped the tempo to leave the Italians struggling to compete.
“We knew we were a little bit inaccurate in the first half,” Ireland stand-in captain Rhys Ruddock said.
“We wanted to play with a bit more tempo and hold onto the ball a bit better and we knew we’d get opportunities the longer we held onto the ball.
“We were able to do that towards the end.”
– Early breakthrough –
Ireland were quickly into their stride, almost scoring in the opening minutes when centre Garry Ringrose burst towards the tryline only to knock-on as he attempted to dot down.
However, the Irish did not have to wait long to get on the board, opening the scoring from an attacking line-out after fly-half Joey Carbery opted to kick a penalty to touch rather than go for the posts.
Ireland won the lineout smoothly and then rumbled forwards before second row Tadgh Beirne blasted over for the score.
Italy enjoyed a sustained period of possession midway through the half but turned over the ball after knocking forward as Ireland’s defenders held firm.
The Irish doubled their lead just after the half-hour mark.
Larmour burst into the line and skipped past the Italian defense before offloading to scrum-half Luke McGrath who dotted down. Carbery added his second conversion of the match to make it 14-0.
Italy again responded well, but once more wasted a promising attack when fullback Luca Sperandio’s pass to the overlapping Giulio Bisegni flew directly into touch with the tryline in sight.
But Italy did eventually break through the Irish defense shortly before half-time when Ruddock’s pass was intercepted by Azzurri skipper Michele Campagnaro, who sprinted over for the score.
Any hopes of an Italy fightback were snuffed out in the opening minutes of the second half, however, as Ireland raised the tempo effectively.
A turnover in midfield set up a second try for Beirne before Campagnaro saw a pass intercepted by Larmour, who sprinted 60 meters to make it 28-7.
Another Ireland attacking lineout from a penalty saw replacement hooker Sean Cronin barrel over from a driving maul, with Carbery adding the conversion for 35-7.
Larmour then grabbed his second of the game, breaking through tackles from Braam Steyn and Sperandio to make it 40-7, with Ross Byrne converting.
Centre Bundee Aki’s surging run and offload then created a score for Ringrose in the corner which Byrne converted for 49-7.
In the closing seconds, Larmour then capped his fine individual display with another solo run, weaving through the Italians to complete his treble.