Wales 42 Italy 0
Wayne Pivac got his Welsh Six Nations campaign off to a winning start on Saturday afternoon with a bonus-point win over Italy in the Principality Stadium, however, given the standard of their opposition, Wales have plenty to work on before travelling to Dublin next week.
The home side dominated the opening half with two Josh Adams tries combined with 10 points from the boot of Dan Biggar while Italy were starved of possession. The second-half was a much tamer and more difficult affair for Wales who, despite a try from debutant Nick Tompkins, struggled to find the bonus-point score.
Eventually, they overcame the stern Italian defence and closed out the game strongly with scores from George North and a third from Adams.
Biggar got the scoring underway after just three minutes when Italy were penalised for hands in the ruck. Though the Italians put together a terrific period of sustained pressure, it was the home side who had the first opportunity at a try. A swift counterattack saw scrum-half Tomos Williams touch down in the corner but there was a clear knock-on in the build-up and the try was disallowed.
Biggar doubled their lead after 10 minutes with a further penalty as Wales began to turn the screw. The fly-half found touch with a brilliant kick and while Italy gained possession, the home side’s counterattacking was superb. Halfpenny chipped the ball downfield which Williams almost gathered under the posts. Play was called back as Halfpenny was tripped while chasing his kick and Biggar extended their lead to nine points.
After 19 minutes, their opening try finally came courtesy of Adams, though Biggar missed the conversion. Ten minutes later, the high-flying winger doubled his return with another five-pointer following a sensational pass from Biggar through his legs. Italy were majorly struggling in defence with an attempted clearance from Tommaso Allan blocked down by Williams. The scrum-half was metres away from the Italian try line but couldn’t control the ball and Leonardo Sarto managed to clear their lines.
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As the half was ticking to a close, Italy were penalised in the scrum and a ruthless Wales opted to go for the corner. From the lineout, Taulupe Faletau, in his first appearance in almost two years, made a powerful drive as Wales’ eyed-up the try line. Allan managed to intercept the ball and Luke Pearce awarded a penalty to the visitors and they relieved the danger. Italy quickly worked the ball downfield hoping for their first points of the game before the break. Despite conceding two penalties in the process, Wales’ defence held firm and turned over possession in the maul to take a 21-point lead into the dressing room.
Italy began in the second-half in a brighter fashion, asking questions of the Welsh defence. Pivac’s side were repeatedly tested in the scrum but Italy failed to take advantage of their penalty count. Wales began to ring the changes but the game was played at a static pace during the third quarter. Finally, the game sparked once again to life and after defending for large portions, Wales turned on the style in attack.
The lively Williams gathered possession over his head to begin the move before Cory Hill made a significant break down the middle. One phase later, Tompkins touched down for a try on his debut for Wales. Rhys Webb was applauded onto the field on his return for to the Principality Stadium and he and Tompkins combined to send North over the try line for what looked like their bonus-point score. However, the TMO judged that there was a knock-on in the process and no try was given.
The home side continued to try and force opportunities out wide but the Italian defence were harder to penetrate in the second period. The ball was brilliantly turned over at the breakdown deep inside the Italian 22 but Wales continued to maintain the pressure. With possession back on their side, Webb edged his side towards the try line. North almost fumbled the ball but managed to keep his composure and fell over the line for his side’s bonus-point score in the 76th minute. Adams powered past the defensive line to complete his hattrick with the clock in red after a decent break from North. Leigh Halfpenny secured the final two conversions to ensure the 42-point victory.
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny; Johnny McNicholl, George North, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams; Dan Biggar, Tomos Williams; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Dillon Lewis; Jake Ball, Alun Wyn Jones (C); Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau.
Replacements: Ryan Elias, Rob Evans, Leon Brown, Cory Hill, Ross Moriarty, Rhys Webb, Jarrod Evans, Nick Tompkins.
Italy: Matteo Minozzi; Leonardo Sarto, Luca Morisi, Carlo Canna, Mattie Bellini; Tommaso Allan, Callum Braley; Giosue Zilocchi, Luca Bigi, Andrea Lovotti; Alessandro Zanni, Niccolo Cannone; Sebastian Negri, Jake Polledri, Abraham Steyn.
Replacements: Federico Zani, Danilo Fischetti, Marco Riccioni, Marco Lazzaroni, Dean Budd, Giovanni Licata, Guglielmo Palazzani, Jayden Hayward.