6 Feb 2017

Wales sack Italy in Rome

2:08 pm on 6 February 2017

Wales overcame a poor start to eventually trample Italy 33-7 in their opening Six Nations encounter in Rome on Sunday, a game that will leave the visitors plenty to ponder ahead of a clash with champions England next weekend.

George North runs in a late try.

George North runs in a late try. Photo: Photosport

The Welsh appeared to take Italy, the tournament's perennial wooden-spooners, lightly at first, squandering chances at goal in search of an elusive five points and failing to find top gear until the final 20 minutes of the match when they raced away.

Fullback Leigh Halfpenny calmed nerves after Italy had improbably opened the scoring in the first half with a try by scrumhalf Edoardo Gori, who was carried under the posts by a rolling mall, breathing life into the home crowd.

Italy's long-suffering fans have dared to hope this year after their team, under new Irish coach Conor O'Shea, ambushed South Africa in Florence last autumn, beating the former world champions for the first time in their biggest upset of all time.

The Welsh, unable to breach Italy's defence in the first half, tightened up their game and turned to sharp-shooting fullback Leigh Halfpenny who fed off Italy's numerous mistakes and steadied nerves with four straight penalty kicks.

But Wales still took an hour to cross the chalk in a game that was fought hard up front -- so hard hat the game was stopped at one point to wipe the ball clean of blood -- but is unlikely to give England coach Eddie Jones sleepless nights.

England also made an unimpressive start in their opening victory against France at Twickenham on Saturday, but Wales struggled for half the game against opponents who would give away 15 penalties by the final whistle.


Despite having 60 percent of the possession, the Welsh failed to penetrate through the middle or get their big backs into space during the first half.

The Welsh scrum and rolling mall were also blunted in an opening stanza that belonged to Italy's veteran captain, Sergio Parisse, who set up the home side's only try.

But Italy tired under the weight of penalties and tackles, and Welsh centre Jonathan Davies finally touched down. The floodgates opened, and tries followed from winger Liam Williams and, in the dying minutes, a rampaging George North.

Italy coach Conor blamed the penalty count for Italy's blow-out in the final 20 minutes, implying that they did not enjoy fair treatment from Irish referee JP Doyle.

"We can't lose the penalty count 15-5 and still win matches," O'Shea said.

"Wales were the better side today in the end, but I think that we were the better side in the first half and we have to make sure we change the perception of people that look at us... so we are refereed on a level playing field," Conor said.

- Reuters