The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Wales survives 2nd-half fightback by Italy to launch Six Nations defence with 23-15 win

  • Print

CARDIFF, Wales - Wales survived a second-half fightback by Italy to launch the defence of its Six Nations title with an unconvincing 23-15 win at Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

First-half tries by Alex Cuthbert and Scott Williams combined with flawless kicking by Leigh Halfpenny to give the Welsh a 17-3 lead at the break.

Unlucky to be so far behind, Italy dominated the second half, with Michele Campagnaro scoring two tries to leave his team just five points behind with 11 minutes left.

However, another penalty by Halfpenny ensured Wales preserved its unbeaten home record against the Italians and saw the fullback finish the match with a personal haul of 13 points.

"It will focus the minds for next week," said Wales coach Warren Gatland, referring to Saturday's match in Ireland. "It wasn't an easy run-out — it was tough, which was the way we wanted it."

The Welsh are seeking an unprecedented third straight title since the tournament expanded in 2000, and have been installed as favourites by most pundits and bookmakers.

Yet they were given a real scare by Italy, and with the score at 20-15 after Campagnaro's second try, there was a real danger that Wales would lose its opening match — like it did last year to Ireland.

In the end, Wales limped to victory and there were muted celebrations by the players after the final whistle.

"We certainly made it hard for ourselves," Wales centre Jamie Roberts said. "We have to tighten up those mistakes in our game. If we don't, then we'll lose against Ireland."

It had all looked so different after just four minutes, when covering winger Angelo Esposito failed to gather a grubber kick by Wales flyhalf Rhys Priestland. The ball slithered through into the in-goal area and the inrushing Cuthbert had the simple task of collecting and diving over for a try that was converted by Halfpenny.

The Italians didn't buckle, though. And after Allan and Halfpenny traded penalties to leave the score 10-3 after 29 minutes, Sergio Parisse was denied a try in the 35th by the video referee, who adjudged the Italy captain to have knocked on as he challenged for a high ball with George North.

Somewhat against the run of play, Wales scored its second try three minutes later when Roberts broke a tackle in midfield before passing inside to centre partner Williams, who cantered over to ground near the posts.

Italy's comeback was launched in the 43rd, though, when Campagnaro chased down Leonardo Sarto's smart kick down the line and dived over just before the ball went dead. Crucially, Allan missed the conversion, then a penalty in the 50th.

Halfpenny booted another penalty in the 67th but blotted his performance by sending over a floated pass that was intercepted by Campagnaro, who raced clear from inside his own half to dive over.

Italy couldn't complete the recovery, and remains with just one away win in the Six Nations — at Scotland.

"As a captain, I am very proud of what the youngsters achieved today," Parisse said. "They were facing some of the most talented backs on the international stage, but they showed they can compete at this level."

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Blake Wheeler talks about past season

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Goslings with some size head for cover Wednesday afternoon on Commerce Drive in Tuxedo Business Park - See Bryksa 30 Goose Challenge- Day 12- May 16, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS  070527 The 21st Annual Teddy Bears' Picnic at Assiniboine Park. The Orlan Ukrainian Dancers perform on stage.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What Western Conference teams will emerge from the first round of the NHL playoffs?

View Results

Ads by Google