Wales bring Italy back down to earth
February 19, 2000
Shane Howarth dives in to score for Wales
© Getty Images
Italy came down to earth with a thump, but the fall was not as bad as some might have feared. Beaten but not humiliated. In front of a packed Millennium Stadium, a venue which some of the Azzurri have only dreamt about, Wales did not disappoint their supporters. After having the stuffing knocked out of them in the last three games played in Cardiff, against Italy they turned on the sparkle and produced some brilliant attacking rugby.
Italy struggled to defend and it always took three men to stop the rampaging Scott Quinnell and Gareth Thomas. A fortnight ago, against Scotland it had been Italy to set the pace. Today they found it hard to keep up but did not collapse. If victory on their debut in Rome was a one-off, the disastrous 1999 can also be redeemed. Italy is the Sixth Nation and Brad Johnstone and his team can only go up.
It took just three minutes for Neil Jenkins to put Wales into the lead kicking a penalty from 29 metres out conceded by the referee for an Italian offside. In the first five minutes Wales looked as if they were set to go on a rampage but when Italian number eight Wim Visser won the first clear ball for his team near the Welsh twenty two Dominguez showed how lethal he can be and put a lightening drop through the posts. The edge seemed to be taken off the Welsh attack and four minutes later a penalty kick from Dominguez put Italy into a short lived lead.
Wales regrouped and some penetrating attacks by Scott Quinnell and Gareth Thomas forced Italy into giving away a string of penalties which Jenkins made short work of. Four penalties between the 15th and the 26th minute gave Wales a comfortable cushion. Scott Quinnell doing his charging rhino impression boosted the Dragons' confidence and on the 28th minute he touched down with the first try of the game after a quick move with his brother Craig following a lineout. Jenkins missed the conversion and Italy was quick to react.
Five minutes' of pressure on the Welsh try line ended with a penalty that allowed Dominguez to put three points on the board. In the 38th minute Jenkins kicked another penalty for Wales and on the stroke of half-time Shane Williams celebrated his first full cap for Wales crossing the line after Mark Taylor had opened the way for him.
In the second half Charvis came on for Lewis and after three minutes Jenkins stretched the lead with another penalty, his seventh out of nine attempts. With Wales well in command Italy tried to fight back and lock Carlo Checchinato came close to scoring from a lineout, but the try was disallowed by Scottish referee Ian Ramage for obstruction.
One minute later Alan Bateman touched down in the corner at the end of sustained pressure in the Italian twenty-two, Jenkins converted and Wales' lead stretched to 40-9. There was still a good thirty minutes to play but Wales had the game stitched up.
A drop in pace left the way open for the Azzurri to come back into the game and produce some attacking runs. First, number eight Wim Visser scored a try from a lineout barging through some feeble Welsh defence. Dominguez safely converted, then it was a clear break by Italy's Scotland match winner supported by young prop Tino Paoletti which took Italy back to near the Welsh line.
The last twenty minutes turned into a substitution bonanza, but Wales could still produce some exciting, determined play and full back Shane Howarth scored another try slicing through the Italian defence after the Quinnells had lead another couple of battering charges. It will be a relieved Wales and coach Graham Henry now will go into their next clash with England at Twickenham with their confidence well and truly boosted.
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