|Six Nations 2017|
|Italy (7) 7|
|Try: Gori Con: Canna|
|Wales (3) 33|
|Tries: J Davies, L Williams, North Cons: Halfpenny 3 Pens: Halfpenny 4|
Wales stuttered for an hour in the face of a colossal Italian defensive display before pulling clear to open their Six Nations campaign with a victory.
But they missed out on a bonus point as Liam Williams came agonisingly close to a fourth try from the final move of the match, but lost control of the ball over the line as he tried to tried to touch down.
Rob Howley's team left a number of criticisms from the autumn campaign unanswered as they toiled in damp and slippery Rome to break down an Azzurri team inspired by peerless number eight and captain Sergio Parisse.
It was only when Italy cracked in the face of lopsided possession and penalty count, and prop Andrea Lovotti was sent to the sin-bin, that Wales were able to open up.
Tries by Jonathan Davies and Liam Williams while Italy were a man short turned the tables, and an apparently injured George North delivered a killer blow as he ran in from 60 metres.
Wales almost claimed the tournament's first every try bonus point when wing Williams just failed to touch down as the clock ticked past 80 minutes.
Italy led at half-time, but just as Parisse had feared in his pre-match news conference, fell off the pace in the last 20 minutes and paid a heavy price.
Leigh Halfpenny kicked three conversions and four penalties for his 18-point tally.
Possession does not equal points
Wales' ambition saw them turn down three kickable penalties in a dominant opening 20 minutes, but they failed to score a point despite 80% possession.
And with referee JP Doyle disinclined to issue warnings let alone a yellow card for repeat infringements, Italy weathered the storm and then showed a more ruthless cutting edge when their chance came.
Parisse was alternately deft and a powerhouse as he set up the attack and then orchestrated the rolling maul that led to scrum-half Edoardo Gori touching down between the posts.
Halfpenny, having missed an early chance, finally had Wales on the scoreboard in the 36th minute when he nailed a penalty as the hosts took a 7-3 lead into the changing rooms at the break.
Pragmatism pays off
After the interval Wales were in no mood to turn down the points as Halfpenny punished continuing Italian indiscipline with three penalties before Lovotti pushed Mr Doyle's patience past breaking point.
When replacement fly-half Sam Davies showed the quick hands that have earned him his Wales call, Scott Williams was able to send Davies over, and Williams' try followed quickly.
Freed of the shackles of having to win the game, Wales showed ambition and skill where they had previously been patient in the face of remorseless defence.
With their scrum bolstered by the arrival of Rob Evans and Tomas Francis from the bench, the visitors finished well on top.
But they have a lot to think about and work on in the six-day turnaround before England arrive in Cardiff.
And it is unlikely they will be on the right end of a 16-5 penalty count on that day.
Man of the match:
It could have been Sergio Parisse, but the accuracy of Leigh Halfpenny's boot and his counter-attacking late in the game earned him the nod.
What is the pundit's view?
Jonathan Davies, former Wales dual-code stand-off and captain: "As expected it was a tough game and a brutal first 60 minutes. They absorbed that and then went on to score a couple of great tries and win comfortably.
"There were a few problems - namely the slow ball movement but by the end the Italians didn't have enough."
Italy: 15-Edoardo Padovani; 14-Giulio Bisegni, 13-Tommaso Benvenuti, 12-Luke McLean 11-Giovanbattista Venditti; 10-Carlo Canna, 9-Edoardo Gori; 1-Andrea Lovotti, 2-Ornel Gega, 3-Lorenzo Cittadini, 4-Marco Fuser, 5-George Biagi, 6-Abraham Steyn, 7-Maxime Mata M'Banda, 8-Sergio Parisse (captain)
Replacements: 16-Leonardo Ghiraldini for Gega (47), 17-Sami Panico, 18-Pietro Ceccarelli for Cittadini (59), 19-Joshua Furno for Fuser (41), 20-Francesco Minto, 21-Giorgio Bronzini for Gori (63), 22-Tommaso Allan for Canna (69), 23-Michele Campagnaro Benvenuti (53),
Not Used: Panico, Minto.
Sin Bin: Lovotti (60).
Wales: 15-Leigh Halfpenny; 14-George North, 13-Jonathan Davies, 12-Scott Williams, 11-Liam Williams; 10-Dan Biggar, 9-Rhys Webb; 1-Nicky Smith, 2-Ken Owens, 3-Samson Lee, 4-Jake Ball, 5-Alun Wyn Jones (captain); 6-Sam Warburton, 7-Justin Tipuric, 8-Ross Moriarty
Replacements: 16-Scott Baldwin, 17-Rob Evans for Smith (50), 18-Tomas Francis for Lee (50), 19-Cory Hill Hill for Ball (63), 20-James King for Moriarty (74)., 21-Gareth Davies for Webb (74), 22-Sam Davies (for Biggar, 40), 23-Jamie Roberts for S Williams (74).
Not Used: Baldwin
Referee: JP Doyle (England)
Touch judges: Johnny Lacey (Ireland) & Craig Maxwell-Keys (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)
|7 (0)||Scrums won (lost)||7 (1)|
|7 (2)||Line-outs won (lost)||13 (0)|
|62 (3)||Rucks/mauls won (lost)||100 (1)|
|29||Kicks from hand||42|
|140 (22)||Tackles made (missed)||97 (17)|