Wales see off fired-up Italy
February 26, 2011
Ryan Jones takes the ball forward for Wales
© PA Photos
Wales defeated a spirited Italy 24-16 in their Six Nations clash at the Stadio Flaminio in Rome on Saturday.
Having broken their long losing streak with a hard-fought win over Scotland last time out, Wales showed plenty of defensive mettle to hold out an Italian side driven on by a magnificent forward effort.
Morgan Stoddart and Sam Warburton scored tries for the visitors, who were grateful late on for a James Hook drop-goal as Italy lurked with intent five points behind.
Stephen Jones also landed 11 points for Wales and Italy will reflect on a poor kicking display from the tee, where Mirco Bergamasco and Luciano Orquera squandered two penalties and two conversions between them, as the deciding factor in another loss.
Gonzalo Canale and skipper Sergio Parisse scored tries for Nick Mallett's side, who showed far more menace in attack and heart in defence than in their limp showing against England two weeks ago.
Jones slotted an early penalty for the visitors after some patient possession but Italy struck for the opening try after just four minutes when a terrible pass from Bradley Davies was put to ground by Stoddart. Canale latched on to the loose ball and kicked ahead, beating the retreating Davies to score in the corner.
Bergamasco's conversion was a poor effort and Wales hit back almost immediately with a well-worked score of their own. Hook was the architect, gliding into a gap before finding Lee Byrne on a well-judged support angle. The fullback stepped infield and popped the ball to Stoddart, who carried two tacklers over out wide.
Jones' conversion was as shaky as Bergamasco's but looked a picture of execution compared to Wales' handling of the restart. For the second time in quick succession the hosts were able to regather possession and a well-judged chip from Kris Burton again had repercussions as Stoddart was penalised for holding on.
Bergamasco sent a precise shot between the posts after 11 minutes but a poor kick from Fabio Semenzato opened the field for a classy counter by the visitors. Shane Williams got the ball rolling by putting Byrne into space, where Hook loomed in support. The centre again showed his deceptive turn of pace to surge clear and, with Warburton unmarked on his inside, the finish was a simple one for the Cardiff flanker.
Jones' conversion took Wales' lead out to seven and the visitors began to take chunks out of the Italian lineout, as England did at Twickenham. A combination of poor kicking and gritty Italian pressure at the breakdown prevented them from taking advantage, however, and the mid-stages of the half descended into a scrappy affair.
When presented with an opportunity in the Welsh 22 just after the 25-minute mark, Italy made their set-piece work, rolling through the phases and stretching the visitors with a series of well-timed runs. Flanker Alessandro Zanni leapt over a ruck and believed that he had scored but a brilliant tackle by Stoddart prevented the Treviso man from grounding.
After long deliberation with the TMO the score was chalked off, leaving Bergamasco with the consolation prize of his second penalty on 26 minutes. Wales created another overlap immediately from the restart thanks to more magic from Williams but again their lateral play allowed Italy to reorganise and secure the ball after an accidental offside.
Italy ramped up the pressure with more strong running and a brilliant grubber ahead from Parisse, but a long hack clear from Warburton gave Wales another opening. A forward drive was followed by darts from Jones and Williams, with Byrne sent flying across the whitewash by his winger only to be called up for a marginal forward pass.
Wales did take advantage of another poor Italian lineout before the break, with a monstrous run from Mike Phillips, which left his opposite number in a heap, setting up another penalty, before a missed penalty touch by the Azzurri gifted the away side field position and another shot at goal following an offside in midfield. Jones slotted the points for a 21-11 half-time lead for the visitors.
A loose pass from Parisse on his 22 after the restart caused a knock-on by Luke McLean but Italy were able to survive an initial charge by Roberts as Wales' execution again failed them.
Bergamasco missed another shot at the uprights on 45 minutes and Italy then passed up a prime opportunity with ball in hand as a superb offload put Andrea Masi into space only for Byrne to chop him down just in time.
Their wait for a try was not a long one, though, and it was Parisse who crashed over in the corner to bring Italy back into the game. Another loose Welsh pass opened the door to the hosts, who flooded forward and turned over the covering Williams. The Italian skipper collected the ball and set off for the line, taking a despairing Jones over with him. Bergamasco hooked the conversion wide.
Italy cranked through the gears with more heavyweight carries after their scrum had won a penalty, but were again unlucky as Wales bagged a turnover and hacked clear, where Hook was prevented from scoring a breakaway try by an unkind bounce in the in-goal area.
Another breakdown penalty went the way of Italy to put Wales back under pressure and with a further infringement at the subsequent lineout, the omens were not good for Gatland's side as the hosts opted for a scrum. A massive shove from the Welsh eight caused Castrogiovanni to pop up, however, and the danger was momentarily cleared.
Italian replacement Luciano Orquera missed a penalty on 66 minutes that would have closed the gap to two and Hook punished the gallant hosts with a vital drop-goal, which came as the result of a lung-bursting charge by Ryan Jones. Another tick in the box for Wales, and more to mull over for the gallant Italians.
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