Wales start defence with scrappy win

Sat, 01 Feb 2014 16:22
Large wales v italy

Wales got their Six Nations defence underway with a scrappy 23-15 win over Italy at the Millennium Stadium, in Cardiff, on Saturday.

Wales got their Six Nations defence underway with a scrappy 23-15 win over Italy at the Millennium Stadium, in Cardiff, on Saturday.

It was not the most convincing of victories, but at the end of the tournament the only factor that will matter is what stood on the scoreboard and that favoured the Welsh.

It means they are on the road to a historic third successive Six Nations title.

Full credit must go to Italy for making the Welsh work so hard and had a few questionable calls gone their way, the result may well have been very different.

The Italian defence, for most part, managed to deal comfortably with the Welsh runners out wide and the big bashers in midfield. However, there were two costly defensive errors in the first-hall that allowed Wales to build up a big lead and effectively put the game beyond the willing Italians.

Although the visitors played much better in the second half, Wales had too much of a lead (14 points) and the Azzurri also lacked the creative cunning that allowed the Welsh so much extra space out wide.

The Italian scrum won its usual quota of penalties in the set pieces, as the Welsh front row struggled with the power of the Azzurri on the unsteady Millennium Stadium surface. Later in the game the referee saw fit to award a couple penalties against the Azzurri scrum and the Welsh also managed to wheel it through the 90 degrees to win a turnover, but generally the visitors were the more powerful combination.

In the line-out the Welsh were also not as secure as they would have hoped.

The opening score came in the fourth minute - when a shocking error by Angelo Esposito, after a grubber, left Alex Cuthbert to stroll over. Leigh Halfpenny added the touchline conversion - 7-0.

After two penalties, in quick succession against the Welsh for transgressions on the ground, Tommaso Allan pulled three points back to make it 3-7 after 13 minutes.

Just short of the half-hour mark Halfpenny, following a line-out penalty, put Wales 10-7 up - despite slipping and ending up on his backside.

And minutes from the break Jamie Roberts came on a great angle and broke the Italian line, to send midfield partner Scott Williams over for his team's second try. The conversion made it 17-3 - which was also the half-time score.

Italy got themselves back into the game early in the second half, following a turnover and a counter from their 22. Michele Campagnaro kicked the ball ahead and collected to score. The conversion was wide, but at 8-17 there was hope.

Halfpenny missed a penalty attempt to the left, before Allan hit the upright on a day that the kickers would like to forget.

With just over 13 minutes left on the clock a questionable scrum penalty awarded to Wales allowed Halfpenny to stretch the lead to 20-9.

Soon after the restart Michele Campagnaro intercepted a poor pass by Halfpenny and sprinted 70 metres for his second try. Allan's conversion made it a five-point game (15-20) with 10 minutes left on the clock.

Halfpenny made amends in the 74th minute with his third penalty - 23-15.

And Wales held on against the Italians to open their account with the win.

Man of the match: The Welsh midfield partnership of Jamie Roberts and Scott Williams caused all kinds of problems for the Italians, while on defence they gave nothing away. Taulupe Faletau was a menace at the breakdown and was used as Wales' main ball carrier among the forwards. However, our award goes to Italian captain Sergio Parisse, who caught Mike Phillips behind the ruck a couple of times for some crucial turnovers and had some strong carries. Also, his work on defence is what puts him apart from the rest.

Moment of the match: There was Angelo Esposito's rookie error in the fourth minute that gifted Alex Cuthbert the opening try. However, Scott Williams's try just before half-time, when Jamie Roberts came on the perfect angle to break the Italian line, as what effectively put the game beyond doubt - even though Italy fought hard in the second half to get back into the contest.

Villain of the match: Nothing untoward in this game.

The scorers:

For Wales:
Cuthbert, Williams
Cons: Halfpenny 2
Pens: Halfpenny 3

For Italy:
Campagnaro 2
Con: Allan
Pen: Allan


Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 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 Tommaso Allan, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 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.

Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Francisco Pastrana (Argentina)
TMO: Iain Ramage (Scotland)

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Team P W D L Pts
Ireland 5 5 0 0 26
Wales 5 3 0 2 15
Scotland 5 3 0 2 13
France 5 2 0 3 11
England 5 2 0 3 10
Italy 5 0 0 5 1