Ireland end on Rome low note
Ireland succumbed to a first defeat to Italy in the RBS 6 Nations after an indisciplined afternoon at the Stadio Olimpico where they were beaten 22-15.
- Related Content
If, as expected, this was to be Brian O'Driscoll's last match for Ireland it was not the way to end such a celebrated career as the finest player his country has produced.
Apart from the result, O'Driscoll spent 10 minutes in the sin-bin for stamping and was fortunate to escape a red card for an offence that is sure to result in a suspension.
Small consolation came when France could not beat Scotland by the necessary margin to avoid the wooden spoon, meaning Ireland finished fifth in the championship.
Wing Giovanbattista Venditti burrowed over for the game's only try in the 49th minute, but Italy could have finished with several more and were grateful that Luciano Orquera and Gonzalo Garcia had brought their kicking boots.
The petulance that swept into Ireland's game was disappointing with Donnacha Ryan and Conor Murray following O'Driscoll into the sin-bin, with the place kicking of Paddy Jackson - who finished with all 15 of his side's points - as one of the few positives.
Ireland coach Declan Kidney insisted he would consider his future over the coming weeks.
The 22-15 loss at the Stadio Olimpico may well be deemed unacceptable by the Irish Rugby Football Union, who will soon decide whether to renew Kidney's contract when it expires in the summer.
"I said all along that I'd concentrate on each game as it came and that's all I've done today," Kidney said.
"I wasn't thinking that this could be my last match as coach, all I was concentrating on was getting the win.
Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip conceded that they had been outplayed.
"We gave away too many easy shots at goal and also turned over a lot of ball at the set piece. They cut us off at source," Heaslip said.
"The set-piece is a big launching platform for any team, so to lose that was frustrating. But we were still in it until the end, despite the injuries."
Sergio Parisse celebrated the conclusion of Italy's most successful RBS 6 Nations after wins over France and Ireland.
They also registered two wins in 2007 - against Scotland and Wales - but Parisse insisted the quality of opposition they have mastered this year sets 2013 apart.
"You can't compare this Six Nations with 2007 because we have secured wins against two squads with a lot of history, two of the strongest in the world," the Italy captain said.
"We're a squad that's improving. We play France and Ireland in the group stage of the 2015 World Cup and we have sent a strong message to them.
"There were a lot of positives in this game from a psychological point of view because there was a good balance between our backs and forwards.
"In this Six Nations we have managed to put a lot of teams under pressure. We played against some great players like Brian O'Driscoll, but have nothing to be envious of."
Coach Jacques Brunel added: "With this victory we showed we were capable of producing some continuity.
"We've shown a good level to our game in this Six Nations. We are a work in progress, but we have shown character and spirit.
"At times there was a lot of composure to our game and that shows we are on the right track."