Wales kept their Grand Slam mission on course after seeing off a determined Italy outfit 24-3 at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
Wales kept their Grand Slam mission on course after seeing off a determined Italy outfit 24-3 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday.
Now only France stand in the way of the Welsh, who are only 80 minutes away from securing the 2012 Six Nations title.
However, it wasn't always one-way traffic for the hosts. Wales have averaged almost 40 points a time over their previous Six Nations meetings with the Azzurri in Cardiff and a repeat performance was expected by many this weekend.
But the Italians weren't prepared to roll over so easily and put in a feisty performance in defence that kept their hosts tryless for 50 minutes, until centre Jamie Roberts finally found a chink in the visitors' armour.
Until then, the favourites had to settle for three penalties to one with full-back Leigh Halfpenny and wing Mirco Bergamasco providing all the points in the first half for their respective teams that saw Wales head into the half-time sheds 9-3 on top.
Italy enjoyed some lengthy spells of possession after the break, but they were then hit with a sucker punch as Wales grabbed the opening try.
The visitors had made seven times more tackles than the men in red, but had no answer for a Welsh counter-attack inside their own 22. With Italy's defence stretched, the ball was spun wide to Roberts who stepped inside Bergamasco for a clear run-in to the line.
Halfpenny added the extras but 10 minutes later found himself in the sin-bin after taking Italy skipper Sergio Parisse out in the air whilst following up his Garryowen.
However, the Azzurri failed to take advantage of playing against 14 Welshmen and failed to add any points in Halfpenny's absence. Instead, Wales managed to extend their lead through a Rhys Priestland penalty.
With three minutes left on the clock, the hosts sealed the deal with their second try of the match thanks to some brilliant finishing from wing Alex Cuthbert.
Priestland's conversion attempt was wide, but it didn't matter as Wales sent Italy home – still without a win in the competition. The Azzurri face Scotland next in a battle to avoid the wooden spoon.
Man of the match: Scrum-half Mike Phillips and centre Jonathan Davies were Wales' stand-out performers, but we'll go for flanker Dan Lydiate who put in his usual strong display.
Moment of the match: There weren't many! But Jamie Roberts' try proved to be the breakthrough Wales were looking for.
Villain of the match: We have a feeling referee George Clancy is going to cop a lot of flak following his performance in the middle…
Tries: Roberts, Cuthbert
Pens: Halfpenny 3, Priestland
Yellow card: Halfpenny, 61 mins (Wales, taking player out in the air)
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun-Wyn Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Gethin Jenkins (c).
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Paul James, 18 Luke Charteris, 19 Ryan Jones, 20 Rhys Webb, 21 James Hook, 22 Scott Williams.
Italy: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Luke McLean, 13 Gonzalo Canale, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Mirco Bergamasco, 10 Kristopher Burton, 9 Fabio Semenzato, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Simone Favaro, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Cornelius Van Zyl, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Andrea Lo Cicero.
Replacements: 16 Tommaso D'Apice, 17 Fabio Staibano, 18 Marco Bortolami, 19 Robert Barbieri, 20 Tobias Botes, 21 Tommaso Benvenuti, 22 Giulio Toniolatti.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)