Dragons all smoke with just a little fire

Italy 8 - Wales 38
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Too many more disjointed affairs such as this will give the Six Nations a bad name, but Wales's long, lean run in the Championship means they will take any win that comes their way, whatever the aesthetic shortcomings. With flickering glimpses of talent, rather than a sustained glare of star-wattage, Gareth Thomas's side backed up their opening victory over England with a six-try canter at the expense of a desperately disappointing Italy.

Too many more disjointed affairs such as this will give the Six Nations a bad name, but Wales's long, lean run in the Championship means they will take any win that comes their way, whatever the aesthetic shortcomings. With flickering glimpses of talent, rather than a sustained glare of star-wattage, Gareth Thomas's side backed up their opening victory over England with a six-try canter at the expense of a desperately disappointing Italy.

Martyn Williams' tireless and clever running earned the flanker a curiosity of a try - he was tackled well short of the goalline but managed to ground the ball against the base of a post - and the man of the match award. The other Williams on the wing, Shane, was everything we have come to expect of him: alert and exciting when given the opportunity to run which, given some ropey Italian attempts to put him under pressure with high balls, was far too often for the home side's good.

Italy had given Ireland a decent hurry-up last Sunday, but yesterday they looked heavy-legged in attack and flimsy in defence. A suspected fractured cheekbone sustained by the flanker, Mauro Bergamasco, did not help. It clearly was a fillip to Wales that they scored first, and early. After four minutes, an unthreatening grubber kick was scooped up by Shane Williams on his 22, and he saw off Andrea Masi and Aaron Persico before bursting into the Italy half. When the Welsh forwards caught up, they recycled and Michael Owen, the No 8, lofted a quality pass right to left, for Jonathan Thomas to claim the try.

Stephen Jones converted, and went on to land three more kicks from four attempts, but the difference from the Millennium Stadium a week ago was like going from a pressure cooker to a saucepan of tepid milk. Italy conceded three kilos a man in the pack, and were unable to gain an edge at the scrum. Though Wales's line-out was not wholly reliable, they found the way to the Italy line with ease.

Considering some of the Welsh support play, with the ball-carrier frequently behind the man he was looking to pass to, the scale of victory might have been much greater than 30 points. On one such occasion, when Tom Shanklin got ahead of Gavin Henson and forced him into a hurried kick near the touchline, Luciano Orquera was able to charge it down and run 50 metres for a try which left the score at 7-5.

Henson sported a new pair of golden boots - Italian-made, by the way - having put the silver ones he used to kick the climatic penalty against England up for sale for charity. All very natty, but the direction the fancy footwear tended to carry Henson in was often not so bright. He drifted diagonally instead of running in straight lines which might have made the lives of the Welsh outside backs much easier.

The Italians' decline and fall on a grey Rome day was accelerated when they tapped a line-out behind their goalline, giving up a five-metre scrum to Wales which was wheeled and reset without the Dragons losing put-in. The ball came to Henson who chipped high to the left for Tom Shanklin to barge aside Roland de Marigny and Ludovico Nitoglia and dot down the second Welsh try.

De Marigny missed a couple of penalty attempts and, crucially, Wales went in again in first-half added time. Hal Luscombe evaded two tackles in the Italy 22, and Martyn Williams, who had begun the move by tidying up a line-out at the tail, managed to hook his arm round and touch the post as De Marigny put in the cover tackle. Those in the crowd who did not like it were perhaps not familiar with the lawbook.

Jones's conversion made it 19-5, and Wales, seeking to improve a record of only two top-two finishes in the Championship since the 1970s, doubled their points total in the second half.

Some of the contrivances Italy came up with to fritter away half-promising positions verged on the embarrassing. One extravagant and misdirected flipped pass by Sergio Parisse in the later stages spoke volumes of an Italian side who all but gave up the ghost. Italy opened the second half with a penalty by De Marigny but their woes were summed up when the full-back managed to twist his right ankle without a Welshman laying a hand on him.

In the meantime, in the 54th minute, Brent Cockbain got his first try for Wales on the end of a Shane Williams break and Jonathan Thomas's neat pass into space. Three minutes later, Shane Williams scored himself from a lovely pass off the floor by the replacement, Kevin Morgan. Two conversions by Jones pushed Wales out to 33-8, and when Shane Williams neatly collected a bouncing pass and combined with another substitute, Ceri Sweeney, for Robert Sidoli to round off the rout. That the scorer was a son of an Italian rubbed salt into the wound, but the Azzurri had helped wield the knife.

Italy: R de Marigny (Parma); Mirco Bergamasco (Stade Français), G Canale (Treviso), A Masi (Viadana), L Nitoglia (Calvisano); L Orquera (Padova), A Troncon (Treviso); A Lo Cicero (L'Aquila), F Ongaro (Treviso), M Castrogiovanni (Calvisano), S Dellape (Agen), M Bortolami (Narbonne, capt), A Persico (Agen), Mauro Bergamasco (Stade Français), S Parisse (Treviso).

Replacements: M Barbini (Petrarca Padova) for Masi, 23-26; Barbini for De Marigny, 74; K Robertson (Viadana) for Mirco Bergamasco, 54; P Griffen (Calvisano) for Troncon, 57; C A del Fava (Parma) for Dellape, 57; S Perugini (Calvisano) for Castrogiovanni, 57; G Intoppa (Calvisano) for Ongaro, 68; D dal Maso (Treviso) for Mauro Bergamasco, 25.

Wales: G Thomas (Toulouse), H Luscombe (Newport-Gwent Dragons), T Shanklin (Cardiff Blues), G Henson (Neath-Swansea Ospreys), S Williams (Ospreys), S Jones (Claremont Auvergne), D Peel (Llanelli Scarlets), G Jenkins (Blues), M Davies (Gloucester), A Jones (Ospreys), B Cockbain (Ospreys), R Sidoli (Blues), J Thomas (Ospreys), M Williams (Blues), M Owen (Dragons).

Replacements: K Morgan (Dragons) for Luscombe, 54; C Sweeney (Dragons) for S Jones, 60; G Cooper (Dragons) for Peel, 57; R McBryde (Scarlets) for Davies, 61; J Yapp (Blues) for A Jones, 61; I Gough (Dragons) for Cockbain, 61; R Sowden-Taylor (Blues) for M Williams, 74.

Referee: A Cole (Australia).

Ruddock: 'We were very professional throughout'

We try to play a style of rugby that people enjoy and we try to score tries. We have some great talent in this squad. Mike Ruddock, Wales coach
Martyn [Williams] was brilliant, like all the players. He was given his opportunity after Colin Charvis was ruled out - he took it against England and he's taken it again. Ruddock

We took the initiative with that first try. We saw what Italy did to Ireland and knew they would come at us like that.
Ruddock

I can't give our front five enough credit.
Martyn Williams, Wales flanker

It was quite debatable but I think it just touched the post.
Williams, on his try awarded by the video referee after the flanker forced the ball against an upright

Italy are a great team - they're the most improved side in world rugby. If we hadn't entered the match with the right mindset it would have been much harder. We were very professional and clinical throughout.
Ruddock

Our gameplan didn't work out. I think our pack did a good job but we didn't kick that well. We played badly and deserved to get beaten - we're not good enough to play badly and get away with it. In general, I still think we're getting better bit by bit.
John Kirwan, Italy coach

Wales are a very good team but they must maintain this standard. Everyone has said Ireland are favourites but I think Wales have a very good chance of winning the championship.
John Kirwan

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