Wales had to work hard to beat Italy 26-15 at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Saturday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
The visitors came into this Test as heavy favourites, despite making 10 changes to their starting XV. While the nature of the contest was relatively competitive and Wales didn’t play particularly well, they were still good enough to claim an 11th successive win.
Wales scored two tries and missed just five out of 104 tackles. And with 56% possession and 60% territory, they effectively shut Italy out of the game.
Flyhalf Dan Biggar was hugely influential for Wales off the kicking tee, in open play and in the aerial contests. Often utilised as an impact player off the bench, he took his starting opportunity, kicking four penalties and a conversion.
To their credit, Italy showed plenty of grit and determination. On the few occasions they were in possession, they looked lively on the ball, but poor handling meant their offensive endeavours often came to nothing.
Italy conceded six penalties in the opening 30 minutes of the match and Biggar punished their ill-discipline with four kicks at goal to hand Wales a 12-0 lead.
Wales tried desperately to inject pace into the game, but it led to a try for Italy. Spotting space out wide, Josh Adams attempted a kick-pass but he didn’t get enough distance on it to travel to his wing as the Azzurri nabbed possession. They won a penalty and set an attacking lineout from which South African flank Braam Steyn burrowed over just before the break.
Italy started the second half as they ended the first; in control, with Tommy Allan slotting a penalty goal to close the deficit to two points.
But Wales then put the game to bed with a try double. Adams made up for his earlier error by scoring his side’s first, before centre Owen Watkin chased down Gareth Anscombe’s kick in behind the Italian defensive line.
Allan made a clean break to set up Edoardo Padovani’s late consolation try before, right at the end, replacement flank Thomas Young almost added a fairytale touch to his first Six Nations appearance when he looked to have scored. But the try was ruled out due to a forward pass in the lead-up.
Italy – Tries: Braam Steyn, Edoardo Padovani. Conversion: Tommy Allan. Penalty: Allan.
Wales – Tries: Josh Adams, Owen Watkin. Conversions: Dan Biggar, Gareth Anscombe. Penalties: Biggar (4).
Italy – 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Edoardo Padovani, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Angelo Esposito, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Guglielmo Palazzani, 8 Sergio Parisse (c), 7 Abraham Steyn, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Dean Budd, 4 David Sisi, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Nicola Quaglio.
Subs: 16 Luca Bigi, 17 Cherif Traore’, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Federico Ruzza, 20 Marco Barbini, 21 Edoardo Gori, 22 Ian McKinley, 23 Tommaso Benvenuti.
Wales – 15 Liam Williams; 14 Jonah Holmes, 13 Jonathan Davies (c), 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Josh Navidi, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Aaron Wainwright, 5 Adam Beard, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Nicky Smith.
Subs: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Alun Wyn Jones, 20 Ross Moriarty, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 Hallam Amos.