Wales opened their Six Nations campaign with a 33-7 win over Italy in Rome as second-half tries from George North, Jonathan Davies and Liam Williams saved Welsh blushes.
An Eduardo Gori try put Italy four points clear at halftime as Conor O’Shea’s charges took a surprising 7-3 lead at the break before Wales rallied in the second-half to pull away from an Italy side that unsurprisingly faded in the last 20 minutes.
The finale of the opening weekend was an undeniable disappointment but here’s how the players fared.
15 Edoardo Padovani, FB – 6
Great counter-attacker and Italy’s biggest threat in a stumbling backline, but dropped a clear high ball with no one behind him. Kicked aimlessly in the second-half as his performance started to deteriorate as the game wore on.
14 Giulio Bisegni, W – 7 – A livewire for Italy and a player that really looked to have a go whenever he touched the ball. Made good metres with his carries but bombed a second-half chance by a misjudged kick that was easily dealt with by Wales.
13 Tommaso Benvenuti, C – 3 – Gave away a penalty for taking out Rhys Webb at the ruck and another for failing to roll away from the ruck. Carried the ball just twice before being yanked after 53 minutes in what was a really poor showing.
12 Luke McLean, C – 5 – Showed some promise early on and carried the ball well but played in an Italian team that really never looked to attack Wales but rather grind them down and play the ball through the air, which naturally limited both Benvenuti and McLean’s touches.
11 Giovanbattista Venditti, W – 7 – Similar to Bisegni, Venditti looked to take on the Welsh defence and didn’t do a bad job, beating three defenders in the limited ball he did receive but was constantly chasing a game that never really came to him.
10 Carlo Canna, FH – 5 – Defended well and showed flickers of his passing ability and quick hands in tight spaces, but did not display the type of playmaking ability that many would have been hoping for as he never really threatened or attacked the Welsh line.
9 Edoardo Gori, SH – 6
Scored Italy’s opening try and played brilliantly when Italy were rolling but couldn’t get things going again when play became stagnant, which was very much the case for the majority of the second-half.
1 Andrea Lovotti, P – 6 – Penalised in the scrum and penalised just outside the Italian line with Wales pressing but saved a certain Jonathan Davies try by pouncing on the ball in the in-goal area. Won a scrum against the head that very nearly led to a Parisse try but was sent to the sin bin for repeated scrum infringements.
2 Ornel Gega, H – 3 – Missed on a key lineout after Liam Williams was tackled into touch in the first-half and dropped a simple pass with Italy beginning to press on Wales’s line down the other end. Showed plenty of enthusiasm but unfortunately not nearly enough skill.
3 Lorenzo Cittadini, P – 5 – Made his tackles count but struggled to keep up in the scrum when Rob Evans and Tomas Francis came on for Wales and was pulled for Pietro Ceccarelli less than 10 minutes later.
4 Marco Fuser, L – 6 – Penalised early on but tackled bravely. Went off for a HIA after coming off second best in a collision with Alun-Wyn Jones but threw himself into everything making a number of big tackles.
5 George Biagi, L – 5 – Great tackle on George North in open play but didn’t really offer much else as a ball carrier or in disrupting Wales’ line-out, as Wales hit on all 13 of their throws.
6 Braam Steyn, F – 5 – Dropped a simple pass from Parisse but was otherwise a willing runner and tackler. Gave away a penalty right in front of the post for hands in the ruck as all his good work was often quickly undone by a moment of clumsiness or recklessness.
7 Maxime Mbanda, F – 7 – Tackled ferociously making 16 tackles in the first-half and a further nine in the second-half. Tackled everything that moved but couldn’t disrupt Wales at the breakdown and never threatened in attack, averaging a metre per carry on just four carries.
8 Sergio Parisse, N8 – 8 –
Excellent in support play and shows no signs of slowing down as he ages. Breaking tackles, assisting tries with deft passing and winning high balls in the air. Was penalised for excessive harassing of referee JP Doyle but was otherwise once again Italy’s best player.
16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, R – 6 – Great run down the sideline as Italy attempted a late rally and was an improvement on Gega who never really set a high bar in the first place.
18 Pietro Ceccarelli, R – 3 – One missed tackle. One turnover conceded. No runs or tackles made. The less said the better.
19 Josh Furno, R – 5 – Tried to bring some energy off the bench but was simply another body in a game that rapidly got away from Italy in the last 20 minutes.
21 Giorgio Bronzini, R – 5 – Replaced Gori with 15 minutes to go just as Italy started to collapse. Went through the motions as his side self-imploded.
22 Tommaso Allan, R – 5 –Ditto to Bronzini.
23Michele Campagnaro, R – 5 – Made some metres when he got on the ball but saw nowhere near enough of it to have an impact on the game.
15 Leigh Halfpenny, FB – 6
Missed an early penalty that was very kickable but made amends with a second soon before the break. Offered little when he counter-attacked but his howitzer of a right boot helped steady the ship for Wales.
14 George North, W – 8 – Defended very well making a number of critical tackles, most notably a first half hit on Gori that stopped the Italian halfback as Italy were beckoning upon the Welsh line. Had a quiet day in attack until he ripped Italy open with a stunning individual try.
13 Jonathan Davies, C – 7 – Had a very quiet first-half and bombed what would have been a certain try off a Dan Biggar pass that admittedly was aimed at his knees, but had a much better second-half scoring Wales’ first try and assisting on Liam Williams’ second.
12 Scott Williams, C – 7 – Very quiet in the first-half but assisted on the decisive Jonathan Davies try that ultimately sealed Wales the win. Still not perfect with his distribution, particularly on a George North first-half overlap, but opened up the Italian defence single handedly on Davies try and played a key part in Williams’ try.
11 Liam Williams, W – 6 – Dropped a routine catch from a Carlo Canna drop out and saw very little ball in the first-half as Wales’ attack largely stumbled and floundered its way through an ugly win. Williams was however on hand to score after getting on the receiving end of a Jonathan Davies try to cross untouched and kill the game off for Wales.
10Dan Biggar, FH – 6 –
Tried to manipulate with his kicks but to mixed success. Did really well in fielding Italian kicks but was pulled after 40 minutes in favour of Sam Davies.
9 Rhys Webb, SH – 7 – Great cross kick to find Liam Williams early on but struggled behind a Wales forward pack that really offered no platform or front foot ball. Sparked Wales into life before the hour mark with a sniping run around the Italian ruck before finding Sam Davies with a flick pass that very nearly led to a try of his own a few phases later.
1 Nicky Smith, P – 6 – Carried well and was effective with his pick and drives before departing after 50 minutes.
2 Ken Owens, H – 6 – Hit his target on all 10 of his line-outs but still needs to offer more when it came to attack and defence.
3 Samson Lee, P – 4 – Out scrummaged on the Italian scrum against the head and offered very little around the park.
4 Jake Ball, L – 6 – Carried well and constantly looked to burrow his way through the Italian line. Ran when he probably should have passed at times but was a nevertheless a willing ball carrier.
5 Alun Wyn Jones, L – 8 – Great cover tackle on Sergio Parisse from a Padovani break and led from the front, breaking tackles and tirelessly working to get over the gainline. A natural leader and a willing combatant on a day when Wales really needed one.
6 Sam Warburton, F – 7 – Stopped the Italians when they started to rumble towards the Welsh line with a critical turnover just before halftime. Carried the ball 13 times for 26 metres in a solid performance.
7 Justin Tipuric, F – 7 – Great at the breakdown in attack and a very solid jumper in the line-out, but had an off day defensively making just six tackles with four missed tackles. Great in support play on Sam Davies’ break but was uncharacteristically inaccurate in defence.
8 Ross Moriarty, N8 – 7 – Failed to replicate his strong bally carrying performances from November, as he just couldn’t find a way over the Italian gainline, despite no shortage of effort, but still got through a lot of work defensively with a team high 13 tackles.
16 Scott Baldwin, R – 6 – Picked up where Owens left off with a number of good carries and was accurate with his throwing.
17 Rob Evans, R – 7 – Performed much better alongside Tomas Francis and played a big part in steadying the Welsh scrum.
18 Tomas Francis, R – 7 – Performed much better alongside Rob Evans and played a big part in steadying the Welsh scrum.
19 Cory Hill, R – 6 – Replaced Jake Ball just after the hour mark and made a number of tackles as Italy briefly mounted some pressure before the hosts ultimately turned the ball over and allowed Wales to kill off the game.
21 Gareth Davies, R – 5 – Replaced Webb with six minutes to go but the game was virtually over by that stage. Served as fresh legs when Wales went in search of a bonus point try that cruelly evaded them.
22 Sam Davies, R – 9 – Has been going head to head with Dan Biggar at Swansea for a while now and may be about to edge him out in Rob Howley’s Wales squad. Was brought on at halftime for Biggar and had a great second-half making a linebreak from a Rhys Webb flick pass, showing great hands in the build up to Jonathan Davies and Liam Williams tries, and set up George North’s galloping try with some great work down the short side to give the Northampton winger just a flicker of space. Will put serious pressure on Biggar for a starting spot against England.
Jack O’Toole, Pundit Arena