Wales power past feisty Italy
April 8, 2001
Gareth Thomas rounds Diego Dominguez of Italy
© Getty Images
Heavyweight Wales had the upper hand over Italy who played bravely and defended stoically for most of the game preventing the Welsh from really ever getting into their stride.
However, in the long term the Azzurri suffered the Welsh physical pounding and once again Scott Quinnell proved an effective battering ram in midfield, with Scott Gibbs wriggling and powering in for two of his team three tries and earning himself the man of the match.
Gareth Thomas winning his 50th cap for Wales led his team onto the pitch in front of a sea of red jerseys on the terraces, while scrum half Rob Howley nursing a last minute back injury could only look on and watch. The No 9 jersey went to Gareth Cooper from Bath whose international debut was celebrated by scoring his team's first try just five minutes into the game.
There was plenty of action in the first quarter of the match. Just fifteen seconds after the start Diego Dominguez opened his duel with Neil Jenkins kicking the first of his 18 points.
It took Wales, however, only five minutes to settle down and look as if they were taking control of the game. Neil Jenkins kicked a penalty into touch five meters from the Italian line: Wales won the ball and drove for the line, Darren Morris quickly recycled for Gareth Cooper to score.
In the space of two minutes Dominguez and Jenkins exchanged a penalty a piece to take it 6-10, but when Wales started applying the pressure Italy's defence, at times, showed signs of cracking.
Wales had to bide their time until the thirtieth minute for their second try which came after a good quarter of an hour of Welsh attacking. From a scrum in front of the post Scott Quinnell charged forward for Gibbs to break through. Jenkins slotted through an easy conversion for his team's 17-6 lead.
The last ten minutes of the first half were Italy's best spell of the day with a mammoth penalty by Dominguez from the half way line and a golden opportunity to touch down for Mauro Bergamasco set on his way by some wizardry by Nanni Raineri.
Just after Neil Jenkins had popped another one over for Wales, the Italian centre flicked the ball to Bergamasco eluding a three man defence but the flanker fumbled knocking on the ball throwing away Italy's clearest chance of the day. The referee had, however, spotted a Welsh offside and Dominguez picked up the small three point consolation, the first half ending 12-20 for Wales.
It was Dominguez again to open the scoring after the break with a spot on drop goal after a strong start by Italy.
The turning point of the day was in the ninth minute when Italy attempted to counter attack from behind their own try line but fatally knocked on the ball. From the following scrum, five metres out, Scott Quinnell charged forward again, Martyn Williams sustained the attack and when Gareth Cooper moved it wide Neil Jenkins was there to flick it on to Gibbs who touched down for try number two.
Jenkins converted and Wales found themselves sitting on a comfortable 12 point cushion. The last thirty minutes were scrappy and bad tempered. Italy' s fullback Alessandro Stoica and Wales' replacement Craig Quinnell, just in for Ian Gough, were both yellow carded, Stoica for punching and Quinnell for a forearm tackle.
In the temporary 14-man match Italy got the inspiration to push Wales back and score a try by Carlo Checchinato after Mauro Bergamasco had broken through the Welsh ranks in their own 22.
Dominguez missed his first attempt at goal of the whole tournament and it was Jenkins to have the last word with his seventh out of seven kick from wide out on the left wing.
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