England crush Italy
London - Winger Chris Ashton scored four tries as England overwhelmed Italy 59-13 at Twickenham on Saturday to maintain their unbeaten start to the Six Nations championship.
England, who opened their campaign with victory in Cardiff last week, ran in eight tries and were always in control against an Italian side who had come close to scoring an upset over Ireland in their first match.
England's other tries came from wing Mark Cueto, captain Mike Tindall, flanker James Haskell and substitute Danny Care.
Flyhalf Toby Flood contributed 13 points from the boot with replacement Jonny Wilkinson adding the rest.
But it was rugby league convert Ashton who grabbed the headlines, taking his tally to nine tries in nine matches and becoming the first English player to score four tries in one match in the Six Nations.
England had surged into the lead with a try after only three minutes, when a sniping run from scrum-half Ben Youngs sent Flood racing clear.
The in-form Leicester flyhalf drew the last Italian defender to put Ashton in under the posts for the winger's third try of the championship.
Ashton risked the wrath of England manager Martin Johnson however after rounding off the score with his trademark swallow dive - something the team management had warned him against doing following the win over Wales last week.
Flood added the conversion but Italy hit back immediately when Mirco Bergamasco coolly slotted a penalty after England infringed at the restart.
A penalty from Flood restored England's seven-point lead but again Italy responded with a penalty from Bergamasco.
England, fielding the youngest starting front row in their history following the late call-up of loosehead Alex Corbisiero for Andrew Sheridan, looked more than comfortable in the setpiece.
But their attempts to impose themselves were undermined early on by basic errors and they had to wait until the 25-minute mark before they reasserted their dominance.
A superb forward drive saw Youngs spin a flat pass to Shontayne Hape, and the powerful New Zealand-born centre burst through flimsy Italian tackling before feeding Ashton, who wriggled over for his second.
Flood added the conversion to make it 17-6 and soon afterwards England were threatening the Italian line again.
A clever midfield move pulled the Italian defence apart, Youngs feeding Flood, who popped inside to Cueto for a converted score which made it 24-6.
A desperate opening period for Italy got worse just before half-time when England scored their fourth try.
From a quick line-out ball on the 22, Youngs found number eight Nick Easter, who punched a hole in the Italian midfield and fed Tindall, who barrelled over the line for another converted score to make it 31-6 at the break.
The second half saw England turn the screw, Italy quickly in trouble when prop Martin Castrogiovanni was sinbinned for delaying a quick England penalty.
Ashton completed his hatrick on 54 minutes, scrambling over from close range after a strong run from replacement Matt Banahan.
Perhaps with one eye on their clash with France later this month, Johnson then withdrew halfbacks Youngs and Flood for Care and Wilkinson.
Care quickly made his mark, waltzing through from close range before Wilkinson added the conversion.
Italy drove over for a late consolation score from Fabio Ongaro before Haskell's effort and Ashton's long range fourth - completed with yet another swallow dive - crowned England's win.