DESPITE GETTING OFF to a dream start under the Principality Stadium roof, Wales made heavy weather of their Six Nations clash with Italy.
Two tries in as many minutes from Hadleigh Parkes and George North helped the hosts open up a 14 – 0 lead with just over six minutes on the clock.
However, the Sunday supporters in Cardiff had to wait until early in the second period for the next Welsh try as Warren Gatland’s much-changed team struggled to build continuity and whittled their own momentum away with a display that was error-strewn until the introduction of Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Patchell.
Italy bounced back almost immediately after their early double setback with the excellent fullback Matteo Minozzi crossing for his third try of the Championship.Source: Six Nations Rugby/YouTube
Wales’ frustrations were illustrated in the 36th minute as Gareth Anscombe opted to point for the posts to make it 17 – 7 when many expected the hosts to seek out tries only.
On the stroke of the interval, Liam Williams – in what proved his final act of the game – was issued a yellow card for a high tackle on Minozzi. Scrum-half Gareth Davies was also handed 10 minutes for a deliberate second-half knock-on, but by then Cory Hill had powered over to extend Wales’ lead.
The bonus point win pushes Wales above England into second place in the Championship table. That extra point was finally secured with 14 minutes to go as Patchell passed out of contact to give North his second score of the contest.
Parkes, who was earlier denied a second try by the TMO, flung a terrific pass wide on Wales’ next serious attack and found replacement flanker Justin Tipuric on the run into the corner.
While the Azzurri performance was again disappointing on the whole, Conor O’Shea’s men did manage to finish with a flourish as Carlo Canna instigated a flowing attack that ended in a try for Mattia Bellini after an offload from Federico Ruzza.