Simply a stroll for Wales
Toothless Azzurri fail to threaten in one-sided contest
Last Updated: 10/03/12 4:52pm
Wales remain on course for a Six Nations Grand Slam after comfortably beating Italy 24-3 at the Millennium Stadium.
Second half tries from Jamie Roberts and Alex Cuthbert were the highlights of a one-sided contest in Cardiff.
Italy never threatened the Wales try-line and managed just three points through the boot of Mirco Bergamasco.
Wales rarely got out of third gear but had more than enough to win and will now turn their attention to next week's Grand Slam clash against France.
Italy trailed by just six points at the interval - Leigh Halfpenny kicking three penalties to Mirco Bergamasco's one - and the Azzurri's defensive resilience unexpectedly made Wales toil.
It was comfortable enough in the end, but Wales know they will need to considerably sharpen their attacking game against the World Cup finalists.
Scrum-half Mike Phillips and centre Jonathan Davies were Wales' stand-put performers, while flanker Dan Lydiate put in his usual strong display.
The Azzurri could easily have rolled over and allowed Wales to cut loose, but their defensive organisation and spirit kept the scoreline respectable.
Wales' coaching team had stressed the need for a dominant opening 20 minutes, and immediate signs looked good when juggernaut wings George North and Cuthbert both enjoyed defence-splitting midfield runs.
But after missing a number of early tackles, Italy showed signs of settling under Sergio Parisse's assured leadership, and Wales were restricted to a long-range Halfpenny penalty that Bergamasco cancelled out just two minutes later.
The visitors, though, found themselves living off scraps of possession, and what meaningful ball they did secure was immediately kicked back to Wales by fly-half Kristopher Burton.
Wales had to be patient, but with their much-vaunted back division eager for work, chances were created at increasingly-regular intervals, suggesting that Italy's defence could only hold out for so long.
A second Halfpenny penalty - he reached 50 points in the tournament as a result - edged Wales back in front, and they continued their siege of Italy's 22.
But a combination of superb Italian defence and occasional over-eagerness by Welsh attackers meant the Azzurri restricted their opponents to one more Halfpenny penalty as a tryless opening period ended 9-3 in Wales' favour.
And the most telling statistic came via a punishing tackle-count that saw Italy make 76 challenges compared with Wales' 14.
Wales finally breached Italy's defence when Rhys Priestland found Roberts, whose angled 40-metre run took him clear and over for a try that Halfpenny converted.
Halfpenny then spent 10 minutes off the field, sin-binned by referee George Clancy for tackling Parisse in the air.
Wales, though, still had time to make their overwhelming territorial control and wealth of possession count as substitutes Ken Owens and Luke Charteris arrived for the final quarter.
Rhys Priestland slotted a 70th-minute penalty that left the Italians 16 points adrift, then Cuthbert took advantage of a quick tap penalty and powered over from 40 metres out two minutes from time.
That sent the crowd home happy but the real test in blue still awaits.