Ashton's fab four as England rout Italy

by staff

Winger Chris Ashton became the first England player to score four tries in a Five or Six Nations match in 97 years when his side pounded Italy 59-13 at Twickenham.

Ashton also became the first England player to score a hat-trick since Jamie Noon against Scotland in 2005.

England remains unbeaten after two rounds of the Six Nations following their opening game victory over Wales in Cardiff.

Italy weren't expected to win on Saturday but they were expected give England a contest after nearly causing a boilover last week when they went down 13-11 to Ireland.

But England gave their visitors a quick reminder of what they were up against when rugby league convert Ashton scored his first try after just two minutes.

Ashton risked the wrath of England coach Martin Johnson after rounding off his first and fourth tries with his trademark swallow dive - something the team management had warned him against doing.

Johnson however was in no mood to rebuke Ashton as he paid tribute to the wing's performance.

"Chris took his tries well. He's a predator - he gets in the right place and scores tries," Johnson said.

"The boys gave him a whole heap of grief when we walked into the changing room. It's OK, it's a bit of fun."

Ashton, who has scored six tries in two Six Nations games this season, was unrepentant.

"I thought it was the right time to do it - I knew he (Johnson) would be a bit annoyed so I thought I would do it," he said.

Ashton's opener was converted by fly-half Toby Flood but Italy hit back immediately when Mirco Bergamasco 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 had to wait until the 24th minute for their next try which came on the back of a superb forward drive.

Scrum-half Ben Youngs spun a perfect flat pass to Shontayne Hape, and the powerful New Zealand-born centre burst through flimsy Italian defence before feeding Ashton, who wriggled over for his second.

Flood added the conversion to make it 17-6 and soon after 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 try 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 Mike 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 screws and Italy were quickly in trouble when prop Martin Castrogiovanni was sin-binned for delaying a quick England penalty.

Ashton completed his hat-trick 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, Johnson then withdrew halfbacks Youngs and Flood for Care and Jonny Wilkinson, who landed three conversions.