Wales thrash Italy to stay on track for Six Nations Grand Slam

Emmeline MOORE
·3-min read

Wales scored seven tries in a 48-7 thrashing of Italy in Rome on Saturday to keep on track for a Six Nations Grand Slam.

Hooker Ken Owens touched down twice with Josh Adams and Taulupe Faletau also crossing to help the visitors to a 27-0 half-time lead in the Stadio Olimpico. George North, Callum Sheedy and Louis Rees-Zammit added three more tries after the break.

Wayne Pivac's unbeaten Triple Crown winners take on title rivals France in Paris next week, as they chase a second Grand Slam in three years.

"We came for five (points) and we got five so we're happy with that," said Pivac.

"If you get too far ahead of yourselves a game like Italy can become a banana skin.

"To have four tries in the bag by half time we were very pleased with that part of the game.

"We achieved everything we wanted to in that half and it allowed us to rest some of the big boys.

"We talked about being ruthless and clinical and at times we were but there were a couple we left out we didn't quite finish.

"It was far from perfect but we're pleased to have the opportunity now to go all the way and win five from five in the Grand Slam."

Pivac added: "Going to Paris will be a different challenge for us, it's a totally different opposition."

Italy fell to their 31st consecutive defeat in the tournament stretching back six years.

"It's a great frustration, but it doesn't change anything about my commitment," said coach Franco Smith who has not won a match since taking over after the 2019 World Cup.

The hosts paid for indiscipline with the Welsh taking hold of the game in the first half hour.

Italy captain Luca Bigi was penalised for off-feet at a ruck with Dan Biggar sending over a penalty goal after three minutes.

Worse was to come for Bigi, however, with the skipper yellow carded four minutes later for failing to retreat 10 metres for a penalty as he hauled down darting scrum-half Gareth Davies.

Reduced to 14 men, Italy conceded 12 points with Adams and Faletau touching down for tries and Biggar converting, with Owens going over twice on 21 and 29 minutes against the young Italian side.

Wales continued the punishment after the break with Jonathan Davies taking a tackle from two Italian defenders before before a smart offload to North, who sprinted clear to touch down for his 43rd try in 101 international appearances.

Monty Ioane restored Italian pride with an individual try, gathering his own chip over Rees-Zammit and riding Liam Williams' tackle to finish in the corner.

Paolo Garbisi converted from a difficult angle.

But Italy replacement Marco Riccioni was sin-binned after 57 minutes for a leading elbow charge into the throat of Wales' New Zealand-born centre Willis Halaholo.

And the visitors again added two more tries with a man advantage.

Replacement Sheedy collected a pass from man-of-the-match Josh Navidi for his first try for Wales in his eighth outing with Rees-Zammit breaking through with a solo run over 80 metres to touch down.

The victory was Wales's 16th consecutive win over Italy, their longest winning run against an opponent, overtaking a run of 15 straight victories versus France from 1908-1927.

"We all make a lot sacrifices, we work really hard, the players put their body, their heart, and they are criticised everywhere," said Smith, fighting back tears.

"We're very disappointed, I can't hide it.

"We have to focus on the next match in Scotland which, for us will obviously be very important."

His side have conceded 26 tries and 187 points this campaign as they are set to take the wooden spoon for the 16th time and sixth consecutive year.