Wales have condemned Italy to the bottom of the Six Nations ladder, downing the Azzurri convincingly 38-14 at the Principality Stadium.
Italy have yet to win a game in this year’s competition and were given no respite by a rampant Welsh side. George North bagged two tries in a result that sees Warren Gatland’s team jump into second place, ahead of England, after four rounds. Sorry Italy are last after four consecutive defeats, picking up another wooden spoon. It was their 16th Six Nations loss in a row – an alarming stat.
Gatland rested most of his first-choice XI but it mattered little. It took just five minutes for the home team to score, after an initial North burst. The ball was fed to impressive Kiwi Hadleigh Parkes and he touched down. A mere two minutes later after an Owen Watkin intercept, North got his first try.
Early on the Italians were already 14-0 behind and headed for a long afternoon. But the Azzurri hit back soon after following a rolling maul. Minozzi showcased a brilliant step to cross in the corner. The visitors were back in it at 14-7 and daring to dream.
Wales were again over the line in the 19th minute, but the try was disallowed by the video referee. Gareth Davies had gathered Steff Evan’s kick but was correctly ruled offside. Italy started to grow in the game, with Tommy Allen’s kicking key. Their pressure paid off and they won a penalty in kicking range, but Allen’s attempt strayed wide.
Four minutes from half-time and Wales inched further ahead, thanks to a Gareth Anscombe penalty. The match erupted seconds before the interval after a Liam Williams’ dangerous tackle on opposite number Matteo Minozzi. The video referee decided Williams’ arm was late and was yellow-carded. The fullback was arguably lucky not to be sent off for the challenge. Williams did not return after his 10 minutes was up.
After the match Gatland said: “The yellow card was fair. We had no problems with a yellow card. Whether he gets cited, (we’ll see). I was disappointed. Whether he had to make the tackle, did he need to go that high? It was our penalty, we could have come back for a penalty. The thing with Liam is he’s an emotional player. That brings the best out of him."
At 17-7 at the break there was a ray of hope for Italy, with Wales down to 10 men. But the second half started horribly for the Azzurri, with Gatland’s side getting another try through Cory Hill.
It was the Dragons’ second-rower’s first try for his country. Wales were then reduced to 13 men briefly, with Gareth Davies also yellow-carded.
But it proved little help for the out-matched Italians. North got his brace and then Justin Tipuric got on the scoresheet as well. There was a late try for winger Mattia Bellini, but it counted for nothing in the grand scheme of things. Wales will head to France in the final round with wind in their sails. Italy slink home to take on Scotland, desperate for some sort of change in form.