Wales struggles to win over Italy

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Wales needed a late try from substitute Tom Shanklin to overcome a dogged Italy 20-15 in the Six Nations.

The defending Grand Slam champions, who made nine changes from the team that lost to France two weeks ago, was far from at its best and only moments of skill from flyhalf James Hook made the difference. Hook also added six points from two penalties.

Fullback Andrea Marcato scored all of Italy's points, with five penalties.

Italy came out fired up after a week of criticism following its three losses so far in the tournament, though it rarely came close to crossing Wales' tryline.

Wales scored the first try through winger Shane Williams in the 27th minute and Shanklin scored with nine minutes remaining.

Italy enjoyed the better of the first half and was unfortunate not to be leading by more than 9-7 at halftime.

The team signaled its intentions early on and asserted itself in the opening two scrums, the second of which resulted in an Italy penalty,with which Marcato opened the scoring.

Nick Mallett's side continued to dominate the match for the next 25 minutes but was unable to extend its lead, despite clever kicks from Paul Griffen, Luke McLean and Gonzalo Canale giving Italy excellent field position.

However, it was Wales who scored the first try. Luke Charteris broke through Italy's defense and Jonathan Thomas then took Wales nearer the Italy line.

Good work by captain Alun-Wyn Jones allowed Gavin Henson to run into space and give Williams a simple pass to score near the posts despite Sergio Parisse's desperate attempts to stop him. Hook added the conversion.

Italy refused to panic and maintained the pressure. Powerhouse Wales No. 8 Andy Powell was unable to assert his power and Lee Byrne and Hook kicked poorly.

Marcato slotted two more penalties to put Italy up 9-7 and only quick reactions from Mark Jones stopped Alessandro Zanni diving on a lose ball in Wales' in-goal area.

From the resulting scrum, Italy battered Wales' line but failed to find a way through, and Marcato pushed a weak drop goal attempt wide of the posts to end the first half.

In the second half, both sides continued where they had finished the first, with Italy continuing to turn their opponents with probing kicks while Wales was unable to find any rhythm or momentum.

On the wing, Williams was isolated and unable to produce any of his trademark runs. All too often, he was isolated and targeted by opposite number Matteo Pratichetti and Canale.

From one of the pair's tackles, he was penalized for failing to release the ball and Marcato put Italy further ahead.

Wales brought on regular captain Ryan Jones and forwards Gethin Jenkins and Matthew Rees to reinforce the pack in the 55th.

Hook put Wales back into the lead by kicking two penalties for a score of 13-12, but with 10 minutes remaining Marcato added his fifth kick of the match to put Italy up 15-13.

However, a minute later Hook wriggled through Italy's defense and popped the ball for Shanklin to score. Hook's conversion put Wales ahead by five, and Italy was unable to escape from its half in the last five minutes to hit back.