WARREN Gatland extended his unbeaten run over the Italians to 13 games as his Welsh side finally broke their duck in this season’s Six Nations at Stadio Olimpico.
The home side came into the game as favourites and seeking their first win in the Italian capital for a decade. More than that, this was supposed to be the moment they put their three near misses to date this season behind them.
They froze, Wales finally turned up and there was nothing left to chance or luck for Gatland’s charges as they gave him his first win since replacing Wayne Pivac. Crucially, it takes Wales off the bottom and gives the chance to avoid the dreaded ‘Wooden Spoon’.
Nothing went the way of the Azzurri on a warm and sunny day in Rome. They found themselves trailing 22-3 at half-time, played 20 minutes of the game with 14 men after a yellow card in each half and failed to convert the chances they created.
They made 720 metres after carving out a number of significant openings, but just couldn’t convert. They were the more creative side, but not the most clinical.
Wales started superbly, feisty, much quicker in the defensive line and looking far more determined than in their defeats to Ireland, Scotland and England. Owen Williams kicked a penalty in the fifth minute and then man of the match Rhys Webb bamboozled the home defenders with a superb box kick into their 22.
Rio Dyer chased faithfully and when the ball bounced away from the grasp of Edoardo Padovani, Dyer gratefully accepted his gift and raced to the posts. Willimas added the extra and Wales were 10 points to the good in as many minutes.
Tomasso Allan kicked a penalty for the home side soon after, but two more Welsh tries before the break lifted the visitor’s confidence and left Italy with a mountain to climb in the second half.
Liam Williams somehow weaved his way to the line at the end of the opening quarter as he bounced off five would-be tacklers. Then a decision by Wales skipper Ken Owens to kick to the corner rather than take three points deliver in spades.
Wales won the line-put, the captain looked destined to score, but home No 8 Leandro Cannone hauled down the maul and Aussie referee Damon Murphy not only ordered a penalty try, but also sent Cannone to the sin-bin.
Italy were better in the second half, and added tries from Sebastien Negri and Juan-Ignacio Brex, but a trademark break from Webb at the base of a ruck 40 metres out sent him into the clear and enabled him to give Taulupe Faletau a free run to the posts. Owen Williams converted and Wales were safe.