Wales 23 Italy 15 match report: Wales see off rally to keep dream alive

Hat-trick hopes still on track as the defending champions withstand gutsy Italian fightback

Millennium Stadium

Wales’s tilt at a record third consecutive Six Nations Championship began with no great boost to their points difference, which could be a worry if the title comes down to that next month. But after a second half in which Italy’s 20-year-old centre Michele Campagnaro scored two opportunistic tries, a narrow win was gratefully accepted.

“A number of years ago we’d have gone into meltdown under that pressure,” said Warren Gatland, the Wales head coach. “As defending champions, we know every team is going to come at us and make it tough. Another week together will do us good.”

Both teams will be away next weekend – Wales in Ireland, Italy in France – and both will be reasonably buoyant, though the Italians expressed baffled gripes over the Irish referee penalising their scrum for not driving straight. All Wales could muster as a scoring threat after half-time was two final-quarter penalties by their eminent full-back Leigh Halfpenny, who had also – gasp – missed one kick just after Campagnaro’s first try in the 43rd minute. “We’ve got to tighten up the mistakes or we’ll lose in Ireland,” said Wales’s Jamie Roberts.

It cannot be overlooked that Italy’s best work came when Wales were sitting comfortable on a 14-point lead. The 2012 and 2013 champions had a try at either end of the first half; the opener by Alex Cuthbert – the big wing’s 10th in 20 Tests – had a huge dollop of luck; the second by the centre Scott Williams, just a sliver. Italy’s debutant on the wing, Angelo Esposito, had his first touch in international rugby during 90 seconds of unbroken Italian possession following the kick-off. Unfortunately for Esposito his second touch went missing as Rhys Priestland’s deft grubber bounced wickedly away from him and Cuthbert pounced.

Italy’s newish fly-half Tommaso Allan kicked a penalty in the 14th minute, and there were two scrum offences against Wales that had Adam Jones and Paul James scratching their heads. Then Sergio Parisse, the Italy captain, daftly nudged into his Welsh counterpart Alun Wyn Jones at a line-out and Halfpenny, who had converted Curthbert’s try, kicked the 35-metre penalty for 10-3. Parisse went close to a try when he knocked forward in an aerial battle with George North. But the expected order was resumed after 37 minutes when a penalty against Italy’s pack was beautifully punted by Priestland for a line-out 30 metres out. Toby Faletau’s tap-down fell behind Mike Phillips, but it flat-footed Italy slightly to Wales’s advantage. In the midfield Roberts took his fellow centre Williams’s short outside pass, crashed past Alberto Sgarbi and fed back inside for Williams’s run-in and a conversion by Halfpenny.

Campagnaro’s first try came from turnover ball and a pass to Leonardo Sarto who booted down the left touchline from his own 10-metre line to turn Faletau. The three-man foot race was won by Campagnaro but Allan missed the conversion. When Parisse caught the restart, a simple obstruction led to Halfpenny’s missed penalty and a long period of Welsh frustration ensued. Italy gave the ball some air and pressed hard up on their hosts. There was relief for Wales when Allan hit a post with a 50th-minute penalty, then Mauro Bergamasco’s dive to the floor ruined a multi-phase Italy attack.

The crowd was around 7,500 down on capacity but there were lusty cheers for Sam Warburton’s entrance from the bench, suggesting no adverse feeling over Wales’s squad captain recently signing a national central contract, while the politicking between the regions and the Welsh Rugby Union took at least an 80-minute break. A third penalty against Italy’s scrum for supposed crooked driving allowed Halfpenny to kick Wales 20-8 ahead with 13 minutes remaining, but his miss-pass to Roberts seeking some width was picked off by Campagnaro for a try converted by Allan to set up a tense finish. Then Italy fell offside after a dozen Welsh phases and Halfpenny’s kick, 15 metres in from touch, scudded low over the bar to outdo the Azzurri for good.

Wales: L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, S Williams, J Roberts, G North; R Priestland, M Phillips (R Webb, 68); P James (R Bevington, 79), R Hibbard (K Owens, 68), A Jones (R Jones 65), L Charteris (A Coombs, 58), AW Jones (capt), D Lydiate (S Warburton 65), J Tipuric, T Faletau.

Italy: L McLean; A Esposito, M Campagnaro, A Sgarbi, L Sarto (T Iannone, 77); T Allan, E Gori (T Botes, 66); M Rizzo (A de Marchi, 56), L Ghiraldini (D Giazzon, 58), M Castrogiovanni (L Cittadini, 69), Q Geldenhuys, M Bortolami (J Furno, 69), A Zanni (F Minto, 73), M Bergamasco (Minto, 58-73), S Parisse (capt).

Referee: J Lacey (Ireland).

 

 

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
News
i100
Life and Style
tech

Apple agrees deal with Visa on contactless payments

Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor