Wales survive brutal Azzurri despite self-inflicted wounds

Italy 16 Wales 24
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The Independent Online

Wales continue to both delight and frustrate their followers in equal measure after blowing hot and cold in the Eternal City. At times in the first half against Italy in Rome, Wales were rampant and they scythed through the Azzurri jerseys with mesmerising speed of hand and foot.

With James Hook providing the silken glove to Jamie Roberts' iron fist, they boast what is probably the most exciting centre partnership in Europe today. That partnership may have come about more by accident than design given that Hook, on his 50th Test appearance, was lining up in his third position in as many games of this Six Nation campaign due to injury to Jon Davies. But the Ospreys playmaker, who will join Perpignan next season, proved he can still make Wales tick whatever number is on his back.

He combined with Ospreys team-mate Lee Byrne, another heading to France after the World Cup, for both Welsh tries, first for Morgan Stoddart and then the excellent flanker Sam Warburton.

Hook said: "The performance wasn't great but at the end of the day we won. We're now two from two on the road and that's something to build on. We probably expected more from ourselves but the big thing was winning. When we all sat down in the changing room after the game, that was what counted most.

"There were negatives in our game," he added. "We started really well in the opening 20 minutes and our attacking flair was good but we played within ourselves in the second half and that was frustrating."

That frantic opening should have paved the way for a far more comfortable afternoon in the Italian sun but Byrne's "try" was ruled out for a disputed forward pass – much to Welsh chagrin – while Wales also possess the innate ability to make things hard for themselves. Mistakes born from over-ambition and their self-destructive lack of discipline meant Warren Gatland's side struggled to shake off the Italians from their coat tails.

Handling errors by Bradley Davies and then Stephen Jones presented tries to Gonzalo Canale and then Sergio Parisse in either half to ensure Italy had a sniff of another victory over Wales in a World Cup year. However their kickers missed 10 points at goal, a deficiency hammered home by Hook's late drop goal.

Roberts said: "I was pleased with our performance but also frustrated at times. We are shooting ourselves in the foot by doing one good thing and then making a silly error the next.

"We scored two good tries but didn't push on because our discipline, more than anything, let us down. We conceded 15 penalties which wasn't very clever, especially as most of them were in positions where we just didn't to give anything away.

"You have to give Italy credit. The game was brutal at times and there was some pretty battered bodies the next morning. But they launched their game off our mistakes. They got territory from penalties and both their tries came from out errors. I'm sure they will be kicking themselves that they missed so many kicks.

"We put ourselves under pressure and if we do that against Ireland they have the players to punish you. But we have two wins on the road and we could still have a say in this Championship."

The remaining games could also define the future of Italy coach Nick Mallett. With France in Rome and then a trip to Murrayfield to come, the former Springbok coach is set to be cut lose before the World Cup if Italy suffer a whitewash

Italy: Tries Canale, Parisse. Penalties Bergamasco 2.

Wales: Tries Stoddart, Warburton. Conversion S Jones. Penalties S Jones 3. Drop Goal J Hook.

Italy L McLean; A Masi (T Benvenuiti, 74), G Canale, A Sgarbi, M Bergamasco; K Burton (L Orquera, 62), F Semenzato (P Canavosio, 70); S Perugini (A Lo Cicero, H-T), L Ghiraldini, M Castrogiovanni (S Perugini, 70), S Dellape (V Bernabo, 50), Q Geldenhuys, A Zanni, S Parisse (capt), R Barbieri (M Vosawai, 70)

Wales L Byrne; M Stoddart, J Hook, J Roberts, S Williams; S Jones, M Phillips; P James, M Rees (capt, R Hibbard, 77), C Mitchell, B Davies, AW Jones, D Lydiate, R Jones, S Warburton.

Referee: W Barnes (England)

The match statistics


Italy 2        Tries        Wales 2

Italy 0/2        Conversions        Wales 1/2

Italy 2/4        Penalties        Wales 3/3

Italy 0/0        Drop goals        Wales 1/1

Phases of play

Italy 1        Scrums won        Wales 6

Italy 0        Scrums lost        Wales 0

Italy 13        Line-outs won        Wales 4

Italy 4        Line-outs lost        Wales 0

Italy 5        Pens conceded        Wales 15

Italy 3        Mauls won        Wales 3

Italy 19        Ruck and drive        Wales 21

Italy 94        Ruck and pass        Wales 59

Team statistics

Italy 191        Passes made        Wales 150

Italy 2        Line breaks        Wales 3

Italy 21        Possession kicked        Wales 26

Italy 2        Kicks to touch        Wales 3

Italy 91        Tackles made        Wales 142

Italy 10        Tackles missed        Wales 5

Italy 17        Offloads in tackle        Wales 10

Italy 16        Total errors made        Wales 13

Ball won

Italy 116        In open play        Wales 83

Italy 25        In opponent's 22        Wales 19

Italy 29        At set-pieces        Wales 15

Italy 1        Turnovers won        Wales 4