Hugo Keenan scored a debut double as Ireland coasted to a 50-17 bonus-point thrashing of Italy to go top of the Six Nations table on Saturday.
Eight months after the clash in Dublin was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Andy Farrell's side secured the maximum points they needed to keep their destiny in their own hands in the battle for the title.
CJ Stander scored the opening try when Conor Murray was in the sin bin after debutant Paolo Garbisi's penalty gave Italy an early lead behind closed doors at the Aviva Stadium.
Wing Keenan crossed twice in the first half and had a try disallowed prior to Will Connors touching down a debut score of his own to secure the bonus point, after Edoardo Padovani finished at the other end.
Johnny Sexton added a fifth try and booted 15 points, with Bundee Aki and Dave Heffernan also scoring before Garbisi went under the posts right at the end.
Ireland ensured they will face France - who, along with England, they are a point clear of - in Paris next Saturday on the final weekend knowing a bonus-point win will seal the title.
Murray was yellow carded inside three minutes for conceding a penalty just in front of his own line after Ireland were caught out by an incisive Italy break, Garbisi opening the scoring from the tee.
Ireland took charge despite being a man down, Stander crashing over from close range before Sexton was on target with a penalty and Keenan finished superbly after Robbie Henshaw - on for the injured Garry Ringrose - picked him out with a whipped pass.
Keenan had a try chalked off when James Ryan was penalised for obstruction, but he got on the end of scrum-half Murray's kick to round off a swift break prior to the interval and Sexton converted expertly for a third time.
Italy did not do themselves any favours as they gave away too many penalties, but Padovani plucked a stray pass from Sexton to race away and score 15 minutes into the second half.
Ireland had the bonus point in the bag soon after, though, Connors dotting down from the back of a driving maul after 61 minutes, then Sexton and Aki added further tries with Italy all at sea.
Heffernan scored Ireland's seventh from a set-piece and Garbisi marked his debut by scampering away for a try with time almost up in a one-sided contest.
Debutants deliver for Farrell
Keenan and Connors grasped the opportunities presented to them by Farrell with both hands.
The lively Keenan was unfortunate not to have a first-half hat-trick when he had a try chalked off and he made 100 metres, while also becoming the first Ireland player to score two debut tries since Dave Kearney against Samoa in 2013.
Flanker Connors was named man of the match for a brilliant display in the back row, making 14 tackles, 11 carries and winning two turnovers.
Garbisi shows promise
Eyebrows were raised when 20-year-old fly-half Garbisi was named in the Azzurri starting line-up.
The number 10 showed why Franco Smith gave him the nod, showing great footwork to race away for a consolation score and producing other flashes of his ability as Italy slumped to a 26th consecutive Six Nations loss.
Key Opta Facts
- Ireland have won 20 of their 21 Six Nations matches against Italy (L1), including each of their 11 home games in that spell.
- Italy have now lost their past 26 games in the Six Nations, the longest losing run by any side in Five/Six Nations history; this was the 10th time in that run that they lost by a margin of at least 30 points.
- Murray assisted two tries against Italy to take his tally in the Six Nations to 25, eight more than any other player in the history of the tournament (since 2000 – Ronan O'Gara and Jonny Wilkinson, 17 each).
- Garbisi became just the fourth Italian player to score a try aged 20 or younger in the Six Nations, after Mirco Bergamasco, Michele Campagnaro and Tommaso Allan; he is also the first player born in the 2000s to score in the championship.
Ireland will have to produce something very special to secure a bonus-point win over Les Bleus, while Italy do battle with an England side eyeing the title at the Stadio Olimpico.