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Dublin: 11 °C Wednesday 23 October, 2019
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6 Nations: Wales stay on championship track after swatting Italy aside

The defending champions look revived after their victory in France last time out.

Leigh Halfpenny slots over a penalty.
Leigh Halfpenny slots over a penalty.
Image: David Davies/PA Wire.

WALES FULLBACK LEIGH HALFPENNY contributed 16 points with the boot as his side coasted to a 26-9 win in rain-soaked Rome.

Halfpenny’s certainty from the placed ball sent Rob Howley’s men in 9-6 up at the break but the visitors were dominant in most areas of the game and cut loose in the second-half.

Centre Jonathan Davies, who endured a torrid opening to his Six Nations against Ireland, dived over under the posts after 44 minutes and winger Alex Cuthbert made Italy pay for going down to 14 men when he raced clear on 61 minutes.

The win sets Wales up for an away trip against Scotland before they face England at the Millennium Stadium.

A win in Murrayfield may offer them reasonable hope of defending the title they won last year in Grand Slam style.

Ha’penny place

In the opening 40 minutes Halfpenny continued his fine kicking form of late as he slotted three penalties from four to give his side a narrow 9-6 lead over Italy.

Italy were hoping to repeat the form of the championship’s opening weekend, when they defeated France in Rome, but Wales were also buoyed by their win over the French, last time out.

Conditions at the Stadio Olimpico were wretched as rain poured down in liberal doses and Italy were the first to slip up, on 11 minutes, as a Welshman was not released in the tackle.

Halfpenny, man of the match in the Parisian win, slotted over the game’s first penalty. Kris Burton, in for Luciano Orquera, responded with a penalty of his own just three minutes later to make it 3-3.

Giovanbattista Venditti had the home crowd on their feet soon after as he burst into the Welsh 22. He held on in the tackle and the chance was lost.

Wales were starting to assert themselves at the scrum and, when Romain Poite penalised the Italians on 20 minutes, a Halfpenny penalty stretched the lead.

A third penalty followed on 23 minutes as Italy were pinged at the scrum again, with the Welsh fullback splitting the posts and leaving the score at 9-3.

Wales’ Alex Cuthbert with Manoa Vosawai of Italy. (©INPHO/Matteo Ciambell)

Good and bad from Cuthbert

Cuthbert dropped a high ball from the restart to give Italy important field position but the Welsh forced the issue at the breakdown to clear their lines.

Poite decided, on 29 minutes, that the Welsh pack engaged at an illegal angle and Burton, originally from Australia, reduced the arrears.

First-half highlights

YouTube: RBS6Nations

Cuthbert should some attacking intent as the half went into its final 10 minutes but Gonzalo Canale’s superb tap tackle saved the day just as the Welsh winger was starting to motor.

Welsh play shifted from the right to left flank but, following some good scrambling from Martin Castrogiovanni, a defensive box-kick from Edoardo Gori was blocked down and Luke McLean was penalised for deliberately slowing down play.

Halfpenny was unsuccessful with his fourth penalty attempt but Wales looked stronger as Poite whistled for half-time oranges and a change of jersey for sensible souls.

The second-half was less of a contest as soon as Davies dotted down for his first try in 10 international outings. Cuthbert pounced for his second try of the championship a minute after Castrogiovanni had been yellow carded.

Second-half highlights

YouTube: RBS6Nations

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Patrick McCarry

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