Wales made it two wins from two in the 2019 Six Nations thanks to Saturday’s hard-fought 26-15 victory over Italy at the Stadio Olimpico.
Having staged a remarkable second-half comeback in France last time out, Warren Gatland’s side were far from at their best again in Rome against a side whose opening loss at Scotland was a record 18th in succession in this competition.
The boot of Dan Biggar earned the visitors a seemingly commanding 12-0 lead in the first half but Braam Steyn’s score and Tommaso Allan’s penalty saw that advantage cut to only two.
It was Josh Adams who made a breakthrough 15 minutes into the second period, going over in the left corner at the end of a sweeping move and Owen Watkin made the game safe as Wales moved top of the early table despite Edoardo Padovani’s late consolation score.
Wales had trailed 16-0 in Paris last week but they needed a little over a minute to forge ahead here as Biggar slotted a simple penalty and added three more before the half-hour as the Azzurri repeatedly transgressed.
Italy belatedly got a foothold in the game and turned down a kickable penalty – a decision that was vindicated as they retained the ball from the line-out and worked it right for Steyn to barge over.
Allan struck the post with a chance to reduce the deficit to two at the break but he made no mistake from right in front shortly after the interval.
But Wales finally found some attacking fluency, capitalising on Aled Davies’ break and working it left through the hands of Jonathan Davies and Liam Williams for Adams to score.
Jonathan Davies saw a try ruled out for a knock-on but the game was effectively put to bed 10 minutes from time as Watkin gathered Gareth Anscombe’s dink over the top to dot down, rendering Padovani’s fine late score academic.
A hard-earned win against the determined Italians means Wales make it two from two in the #GuinnessSixNations.
— Welsh Rugby Union (@WelshRugbyUnion) February 9, 2019
WALES WINNING UGLY
Gatland, who made 10 changes from the France game, will perhaps not be too dissatisfied to see his side head back to Cardiff with two wins in the bag having played well below their usual level. One would imagine performances will have to improve against England, Scotland and Ireland.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Wales have now won 11 consecutive matches in all competitions, equalling their longest winning run in Test history (W11, 1907-1910).
– Italy have now lost 19 games in a row in the Six Nations, extending the unwanted record they set with defeat to Scotland.
– Italy have not won at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome in the Six Nations since 2013 when they beat Ireland, losing all 13 tournament matches at the venue since.
– After failing to score in his first 13 appearances for Italy, Edoardo Padovani now has three tries in his last four matches for the Azzurri.
– Dan Biggar has now scored 53 points for Wales against Italy, the first side he has scored 50-plus points against.
– This match saw Alun Wyn Jones make his 50th appearance in the Six Nations, just the fourth player to reach that milestone for Wales in the Five/Six Nations (also Gethin Jenkins, Martyn Williams and Stephen Jones).
– Leonardo Ghiraldini made his 50th appearance in the Six Nations in this match, one week after winning his 100th cap for Italy.
After back-to-back games on the road to start this year’s Six Nations, Wales return home to face England on February 23 while Italy host defending Grand Slam champions Ireland a day later.
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