Ireland's Conor Murray, bottom, celebrates with teammates after scoring a try during their Six Nations rugby union international match against Italy at Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Sunday. Photo: Alessandra Tarantino/AP

ROME – Reigning champions Ireland battled to a 26-16 Six Nations win over Italy on Sunday, earning a bonus-point victory while condemning the hosts to a 20th successive defeat in the tournament.

The home side led 16-12 at the break thanks to tries from Edoardo Padovani and Luca Morisi and two Tommaso Allan penalties.

But Ireland hit back in the second-half with Keith Earls and Conor Murray touching down to add to Quinn Roux and Jacob Stockdale's first-half tries.

"We knew how difficult it was coming to Rome," said Ireland captain Peter O'Mahony.

"There's certainly stuff we can do better, but we'll kick on now and look forward to France in a couple of weeks.

"We were probably trying too hard at times. We just said 'calm down'."

It was the second win for Ireland after beating Scotland (22-13), and losing their opener to England (32-20) in this year's Six Nations.

Ireland had looked to be cruising at 12-3 with Roux touching down after 11 minutes.

Chris Farrell had made the initial break towards the line but stopped just short, with Roux taking possession to finish off.

Jonathan Sexton converted with Stockdale getting his team's second try ten minutes later.

The Ulster wing picked up the ball and raced down the field for his 14th try in 17 Test appearances.

Italy were missing their talismanic skipper Sergio Parisse who shouted support from the sidelines after being ruled out with concussion.

Italy got on the scoreboard after 20 minutes with Allan converting a penalty but Ireland immediately hit back.

Scrum-half Tito Tebaldi pulled out a towering performance at the heart of the Azzurri playing a role in the tries scores by Padovani (33) and Morisi (39).

Ireland lost Bundee Aki after 12 minutes with the Connacht centre failing a head injury assessment to be replaced by Andrew Conway.

The Italians could have led by an even bigger margin with Allan missing two conversions.

But Ireland shut out the Italians in the second half condemning Conor O'Shea's side to their 20th consecutive defeat in the tournament going back to 2015.