Italy blew a huge chance to move off the bottom of the Six Nations table on Saturday as they fell 24-16 to Wales at the Stadio Flaminio.
Italy blew a massive chance to move off the bottom of the Six Nations table on Saturday as they fell 24-16 to Wales.
Ten points were missed from the tee by wing Mirco Bergamasco and replacement fly-half Luciano Orquera in a result that will hurt Italy.
Wales did not help themselves in the opening stages when, after Stephen Jones had opened the scoring, they gifted the Azzurri a try on five minutes. The Welsh were looking to adopt their expansive game right from the off and it was that that cost them when a stray pass from lock Bradley Davies was swooped upon by centre Gonzalo Canale. His chip and chase eventually saw him regather to send the Stadio Flaminio into raptures. Bergamasco missed the extras.
A response was needed in order to quieten the Italy support. And so it came as the visitors marched downfield and crossed wide on the left courtesy of Scarlets wing Morgan Stoddart, who was awarded the try after a long wait for the TMO.
The match conditions were helping the game no end and it didn't take long for the third five-pointer to arrive, which was arguably the pick of the bunch in Rome. From a breakout in midfield, full-back Lee Byrne hit a magnificent angle – similar to the one he did in Paris a few years back – and James Hook had the simple task of drawing the last man and sending over Sam Warburton. Stephen Jones sent over the simple conversion and the score was up to 15-8 to Wales on fourteen minutes.
But despite their seven-point cushion, one had the feeling that the lead was unlikely to grow dramatically. Italy were matching their visitors play by play and in fact cut the arrears ten minutes later when a backtracking Stoddart was blown for not releasing the ball.
Then came a moment that full-back Luke McLean might lose sleep over tonight as his somewhat overambitious penalty touch-finder did not make its target, with that ultimately costing the hosts six points via the boot of Jones that sent them in 21-11.
Wales' form dipped somewhat in the second period as they enjoyed little territory and/or possession. However for all the Azzurri's dominance and hunger, it was a constant lack of cutting edge that's required to win such internationals that will annoy Nick Mallett the most.
Number eight Sergio Parisse did show real strength to cross on the left wing – shrugging off pivot Jones to ground and reduce the gap to just five points – to continue the momentum.
But for all their ball and will to upset Warren Gatland's charges, it was fitting that a Hook drop-goal took the game beyond doubt. A lesson for Italy that they need to take their chances and kick their goals, but one that needs to be absorbed.
Man-of-the-match: He was a different class. Sergio Parisse.
Moment-of-the-match: Scrum-half and scrum-half, you wouldn't expect to witness such physicality. If you haven't seen it yet, try and find Mike Phillips' bump off Fabio Semenzato.
Tries: Canale, Parisse
Pen: Bergamasco 2
Tries: Stoddart, Warburton
Pen: Jones 3
Italy: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Andrea Masi, 13 Gonzalo Canale, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Mirco Bergamasco, 10 Kris Burton, 9 Fabio Semenzato, 8 Sergio Parisse (c), 7 Robert Barbieri, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Quintin Geldenhuys, 4 Santiao Dellape, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Salvatore Perugini.
Replacements: 16 Carlo Festuccia, 17 Andrea Lo Cicero, 18 Valerio Bernabo, 19 Manoa Vosawai, 20 Pablo Canavosio, 21 Luciano Orquera, 22 Tommaso Benvenuti.
Wales: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Morgan Stoddart, 13 James Hook, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Shane Williams, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Michael Phillips, 8 Ryan Jones, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun-Wyn Jones, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Craig Mitchell, 2 Matthew Rees (c), 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 John Yapp, 18 Jonathan Thomas, 19 Josh Turnbull, 20 Tavis Knoyle, 21 Rhys Priestland, 22 Leigh Halfpenny.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Dave Pearson (England), John Lacey (Ireland)
TMO: Iain Ramage (Scotland)