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Breathtaking Marcus Smith drop goal keeps England's Six Nations hopes alive

Breathtaking Marcus Smith drop goal keeps England's Six Nations hopes alive
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Marcus Smith's last-gasp drop goal sees England overcome Ireland 23-22 at Twickenham to keep their hopes of Six Nations glory alive.

England kept their hopes of Grand Slam glory alive in breathtaking circumstances as they eked out a 23-22 win over Andy Farrell's Ireland at Twickenham.

Leading 22-20 with 80 minutes on the clock, the reigning champions were on the cusp of taking home the 2024 crown, before Marcus Smith's remarkable drop goal propelled Steve Borthwick's men to the most dramatic of triumphs.

In doing so, the 25-year-old also extinguished Ireland's bid for back-to-back Grand Slams, as well as clinching the Millennium Trophy for England for the first time since the 2020 tournament.

Despite Ollie Lawrence's opening try, Farrell's team went into half time with a four-point lead thanks to a quartet of Jack Crowley penalties, before James Lowe crossed the line twice in the second half.

England matched their foes through George Furbank and Ben Earl's efforts, though, and having already won a penalty in the final moments, the hosts worked the ball from right to left and sent the Twickenham crowd into delirium as Smith kicked through the posts from close range.

While Ireland - whose lead over England stands at four points - will retain their title if they beat Scotland in round five, Borthwick's side could still take the crown with victory over France if the result of the Dublin showdown goes their way.

Earlier in the day, Italy players were equally overcome by emotion after ending an 11-year run without a home win at the Six Nations, defeating Scotland 31-29 at Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

The Azzurri had not celebrated a triumph in front of their own fans since beating Ireland in their 2013 finale, since when they hitherto only had a 2015 success versus Scotland and 2022 beating of Wales to shout about.

However, Gonzalo Quesada's men weathered an intense late Scottish storm to post their first triumph of the 2024 tournament, thus extinguishing their visitors' wafer-thin hopes of clinching the title.

Despite Ignacio Brex's effort, Scotland led by six at the break thanks to tries from Zander Fagerson, Kyle Steyn and Pierre Schoeman, only to see Azzurri debutant Louis Lynagh go over before Stephen Varney notched Italy's third.

Paolo Garbisi could not add the extras, but the 23-year-old's third penalty of the afternoon ensured that Sam Skinner's 78th-minute try would prove inconsequential, despite Scotland throwing the kitchen sink at Italy in the dying embers.

The Azzurri's spectacular triumph also means that Italy have won the Cuttitta Cup - the trophy commemorating ex-captain and former Scotland scrum coach Massimo Cuttitta - for the first time after Scotland won the first two editions in 2022 and 2023.

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