Wales' Ian Evans (R) tackles Italy's Andrea Masi during
their Six Nations match at the Olympic stadium in Rome.
Defending champions Wales have overwhelmed Italy 26-9 in
appalling conditions in the third round of the Six Nations
championship with man-of-the-match Leigh Halfpenny kicking 16
Fullback Halfpenny missed only one kick in the torrential
rain in Rome, while centre Jonathan Davies and right wing
Alex Cuthbert scored second-half tries.
Italian captain Martin Castrogiovanni, taking over from the
suspended Sergio Parisse, was sent to the sin bin in the
second half after being shown a yellow card for repeated
scrum infringements in the front row.
Wales now have two wins from three matches while Italy, who
upset France in the first round, have lost twice.
The Italian scrum, normally one of the team's strengths,
failed to contain a committed Welsh eight and they rarely
looked like breaching the visitors' defence. Flyhalf Kris
Burton kicked all their points with three penalties.
"The first half was tough and the conditions had a huge
impact on the way both teams played. The game management was
excellent. To come here and beat Italy you need composure,"
said Wales captain Ryan Jones.
"Our attitude was superb. You can never question our
never-say-die attitude. We dug real deep and showed what
we're made of as a team."
Coach Rob Howley said the Wales' scrum had given his team the
platform for victory.
"In the second half we were clinical and took our
opportunities," he said. "We had three opportunities and
scored two tries, that's a testament to this side."
Castrogiovanni said the Italian scrum had been a weak point.
"We conceded nine points from the scrum today and that's also
my fault because I was the leader out there today. We'll have
to look at the videos but today we just weren't there," he
said. "We have to be at our best in every aspect of the game
and today we weren't that."
With the score 9-6 to Wales after a uneventful first half,
the game turned on two errors early in the second half.
Italy should have scored the game's first try in the first
minute of the second period when Tommaso Benvenuti failed to
gather Burton's chip over a charging Welsh defence only
metres from the try line.
Wales extended their lead to 16-6 four minutes later when
another chip, this time from scrumhalf Mike Phillips, bounced
awkwardly and Davies capitalised on indecision in the Italian
defence to snatch the ball and race through to score
Cuthbert moved Wales further ahead just after the hour mark,
finishing a spell of Welsh pressure by racing through the
defence at an angle to score in the corner.
Halfpenny, whose kicking was magnificent all day, converted
brilliantly to make it 26-9 and secure the two points.
"In the first half we didn't manage territory well, and they
did with long kicks and pressure," said coach Jacques Brunel.
"It's true that we were only at 9-6, but we never had control
of the game. They controlled the play, especially with the
boot and in the scrum.
"They were more precise than us in their play. We didn't
manage to put any pressure on them.
"In the second half we had the chance to score and five
minutes later they have a similar kick and they score from
it. That's the difference."