Adams' hat-trick sees Wales launch Pivac era with Italy rout

by Julian GUYER
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Wales wing Josh Adams (centre) dives over the line to score his third try during the Six Nations match against Italy in Cardiff on February 1, 2019

Josh Adams scored a hat-trick of tries as Grand Slam champions Wales began their Six Nations title defence by thrashing Italy 42-0 in Cardiff on Saturday in Wayne Pivac's first Test as coach.

Wales were a commanding 21-0 ahead at half-time under the closed roof of the Principality Stadium following a double from Adams, the leading try-scorer at last year's World Cup in Japan.

He grabbed his third in stoppage time at the end of the game, with Wales scoring five tries in total.

It was the first hat-trick at home by a Wales player in a Five or Six Nations match since Maurice Richards grabbed four tries against England in Cardiff in 1969.

Cardiff Blues wing Adams has now scored 10 tries in his last eight Tests.

"Getting five points is really important but also we defended well," Pivac told the BBC.

"We've got plenty to work on. It was far from the perfect performance," added former Scarlets boss Pivac, who took over as Wales coach from Warren Gatland after his fellow New Zealander's succesful 12-year reign ended at the World Cup.

For Italy, themselves under a new coach in caretaker boss Franco Smith, this reverse extended their Six Nations losing streak to 23 matches.

"We knew it was going to be a tough game," said Italy captain Luca Bigi. "Our set-piece didn't go well. We have to be focussed on every line-out, every scrum to create ball for our backs."

Wales fly-half Dan Biggar kicked the hosts into an early lead with two close-range penalties before a 40-metre effort made it 9-0.

Italy tried to spread the play but Wales, with Aaron Wainwright carrying on from where he left off at the World Cup and fellow flanker Justin Tipuric impressive in defence, kept them at bay.

World Cup semi-finalists Wales' first try arrived in the 18th minute when fullback Leigh Halfpenny sent Adams in at the corner for an unconverted score.

Adams, the leading try-scorer at Japan 2019 with seven, went over again on the half-hour.

Following a maul near Italy's line and quick ball from scrum-half Tomos Williams, Biggar, with his back to Adams, managed to find the flyer with an outrageous pass between his legs.

Biggar landed a tough conversion from the touchline and Wales led 21-0.

Italy pressed for a try in the second half as they declined kickable penalties but rarely looked like penetrating the Welsh defence.

On the hour, replacement forward Cory Hill made a break and debutant replacement back Nick Tompkins, coming off a ruck, sprinted clear from some 40 metres.

North thought he had scored a bonus point try but a Tompkins knock-on saw his effort disallowed.

But George North, playing at centre rather than on the wing following Jonathan Davies' tournament-ending knee injury, did power over from close range for a bonus-point try -- his 40th for Wales -- four minutes from time.

Adams too then forced his way over in similar fashion.

Wales are away to Ireland -- who beat Scotland 19-12 on Saturday -- next weekend, when Italy travel to France.

Hat-trick hero: Josh Adams (C) dives over the line to score his third try in Wales' 42-rout of Italy in the Six Nations

Alun Wyn Jones soared for Wales at line-outs