Wales thump Italy to keep Grand Slam hopes alive
SIX NATIONS REPORT: Wales scored seven tries in a 48-7 thrashing of Italy in Rome on Saturday to keep on track for a Six Nations Grand Slam.
Hooker Ken Owens touched down twice with Josh Adams and Taulupe Faletau also crossing to help the visitors to a 27-0 half-time lead in the Stadio Olimpico. George North, Callum Sheedy and Louis Rees-Zammit added three more tries after the break.
Wayne Pivac’s unbeaten Triple Crown winners take on title rivals France in Paris next week, as they chase a second Grand Slam in three years.
Italy fell to their 31st consecutive defeat in the tournament stretching back six years.
The hosts paid for indiscipline with the Welsh taking hold of the game in the first half hour.
Italy captain Luca Bigi was penalised for off-feet at a ruck with Dan Biggar sending over a penalty goal after three minutes.
Worse was to come for Bigi, however, with the skipper yellow carded four minutes later for failing to retreat 10 metres for a penalty as he hauled down darting scrum-half Gareth Davies.
Reduced to 14 men, Italy conceded 12 points with Adams and Faletau touching down for tries and Biggar converting, with Owens going over twice on 21 and 29 minutes against the young Italian side.
Wales continued the punishment after the break with Jonathan Davies taking a tackle from two Italian defenders before a smart offload to North, who sprinted clear to touch down for his 43rd try in 101 international appearances.
Monty Ioane restored Italian pride with an individual try, gathering his own chip over Rees-Zammit and riding Liam Williams’ tackle to finish in the corner.
Paolo Garbisi converted from a difficult angle.
But Italy replacement Marco Riccioni was sin-binned after 57 minutes for a leading elbow charge into the throat of Wales’ New Zealand-born centre Willis Halaholo.
And the visitors again added two more tries with a man advantage.
Replacement Sheedy collected a pass from man-of-the-match Josh Navidi for his first try for Wales in his eighth outing with Rees-Zammit breaking through with a solo run over 80 metres to touch down.
The victory was Wales’s 16th consecutive win over Italy, their longest winning run against an opponent, overtaking a run of 15 straight victories versus France from 1908-1927.
South African Franco Smith continues his search for a first win as Italy coach.
His side have conceded 26 tries and 187 points this campaign as they are set to take the wooden spoon for the 16th time and sixth consecutive year.
Man of the match: Wales flank Josh Navidi was impressive around the park, especially on defence, However, the award goes to Wales hooker Ken Owens, who put in a big all-round performance. He carried the ball like a man possessed and scored two of his team’s seven tries.
Moment of the match: At half-time we were wondering if Italy were going to get any points in the game. They got their only try in the 51st minute and it was a piece of individual brilliance from wing Monty Ioane.
Villain of the match: No one
Tries: Adams, Faletau, Owens 2, North, Sheedy, Rees-Zammit
Cons: Biggar 3, Sheedy 2
Yellow cards: Luca Bigi (Italy, 7 – negative play), Marco Riccioni (Italy, 57 – foul play)
Italy: 15 Jacopo Trulla, 14 Mattia Bellini, 13 Ignacio Brex, 12 Carlo Canna, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Stephen Varney, 8 Michele Lamaro, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 David Sisi, 4 Niccolo Cannone, 3 Giosue Zilocchi, 2 Luca Bigi (captain), 1 Danilo Fischetti.
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Andrea Lovotti, 18 Marco Riccioni, 19 Marco Lazzaroni, 20 Maxime Mbanda, 21 Marcello Violi, 22 Federico Mori, 23 Edoardo Padovani.
Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 George North, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Cory Hill, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Wyn Jones.
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Rhys Carre, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Aaron Wainwright, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Callum Sheedy, 23 Uilisi Halaholo.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gauzere (France), Christophe Ridley (England)
TMO: Tom Foley (England)
AFP & @rugby365com