Wales struggle past Italy

Wales began their quest for a third successive Six Nations title with an unconvincing 23-15 win against Italy in Cardiff.

The Italians suffered an early setback when Angelo Esposito made a total hash of a grubber kick from Rhys Priestland. Alex Cuthbert picked up the loose ball to score a try that Leigh Halfpenny converted.

But the visitors clawed three points back through the boot of former WP U19 flyhalf Tommy Allan, and proved to be very competitive for the remainder of the half. Sergio Parisse was a bit unlucky not to score a try when he contested a high ball with George North and it went forward off his hand.

Wales, though, struck again two minutes before the break when Jamie Roberts cut inside Alberto Sgarbi's tackle and broke clear. Scott Williams was on his shoulder in support and crossed the line to give his side a 14-point lead.

Italy made a good start to the second half when they forced a turnover on their 22 and took play up to halfway. The official Man of the Match, Michele Campagnaro, then fed Leonardo Sarto, who bolted down the left touchline before chipping ahead. Campagnaro won the race to the ball.

Allan missed the conversion and his next penalty attempt came off a post. Halfpenny, too, missed a shot at goal.

Italy dominated possession and territory in the second half, but Wales defended well and Halfpenny's second penalty made it 20-8 with 12 minutes to go.

But Halfpenny then threw a poor pass that was intercepted by Campagnaro, who ran 60m to score. Allan's conversion reduced the deficit to five.

Halfpenny, though, kicked a 73rd-minute penalty to give his side some breathing room.

Wales – Tries: Alex Cuthbert, Scott Williams. Conversions: Leigh Halfpenny (2). Penalties: Halfpenny (3).
Italy – Tries: Michele Campagnaro (2). Conversion: Tommy Allan. Penalty: Allan.

Wales – 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun-Wyn Jones (c), 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paul James.
Subs: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Andrew Coombs, 20 Sam Warburton, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 James Hook, 23 Liam Williams.

Italy – 15 Luke McLean, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Leonardo Sarto, 10 Tommy Allan, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (c), 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Michele Rizzo.
Replacements: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Alberto De Marchi, 18 Lorenzo Cittadini, 19 Joshua Furno, 20 Francesco Minto, 21 Tobias Botes, 22 Luciano Orquera, 23 Tommaso Iannone.

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Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images

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Simon Borchardt