Six Nations 2020: Josh Adams hat-trick helps Wales thrash Italy
|2020 Six Nations|
|Wales (21) 42|
|Tries: Adams 3, Tompkins, North Cons: Biggar 2, Halfpenny 2 Pens: Biggar 3|
|Italy (0) 0|
Defending champions Wales started the 2020 Six Nations with a comfortable 42-0 victory over Italy in Wayne Pivac's first Test match in charge.
A hat-trick from Josh Adams and further tries from new cap Nick Tompkins, who scored a stunning effort, and George North set up the victory.
Fly-half Dan Biggar added 13 points after being given the goalkicking duties ahead of Leigh Halfpenny.
Wales next face Ireland in Dublin on Saturday, 8 February.
Victory saw the hosts equal their record of eight successive Six Nations victories, stretching back to March 2018.
New coach Pivac had talked about evolution rather than revolution as he followed Warren Gatland's successful 12-year reign, but there were glimpses of a more expansive attacking style developing.
Adams was the beneficiary of some flowing first-half moves as he built on his success at the 2019 World Cup, which he finished as top try scorer with seven. The Cardiff Blues wing now has scored 10 tries in his past eight internationals and 14 in 22 Tests in his career.
The instinctive intent was typified by one outstanding try-scoring pass by fly-half Biggar, while half-back partner Tomos Williams excelled in a rare Test start with Gareth Davies injured.
There will be sterner tests than this with Italy now having been defeated in their past 23 Six Nations games - a tournament losing record, stretching back to 2015. Those challenges start in Dublin next Saturday.
Wales tackle centre conundrum
In the absence of injured centre Jonathan Davies, George North was switched to the midfield for his fifth start in that position in his 92nd Wales Test.
New Zealand-born winger Johnny McNicholl made his first Test start after scoring in the uncapped victory over the Barbarians in November 2019.
There was the return of a familiar face at number eight, where Taulupe Faletau played his first Wales game since March 2018 and revelled in the open Principality Stadium spaces alongside the back-row duo of man-of-the-match Justin Tipuric and Aaron Wainwright.
There had also been pre-match debate about who would be the goalkicker between world-class operators Biggar and Halfpenny.
It was Biggar who was handed the responsibility and he duly slotted over the opening penalty.
Saracens centre Tompkins, who qualified for Wales through his Welsh grandmother, came on for his first cap for McNicholl, who received a blow to the face in the build-up to Biggar's second penalty.
North switched to the wing while Tompkins slotted into the Welsh midfield but the hosts shook off the backline disruption as scrum-half Williams proved a constant livewire.
His half-back partner Biggar kept the scoreboard ticking with his third penalty after Italy were penalised for a trip on Halfpenny.
Wales were rampant in the opening quarter and crossed the tryline when Adams smartly finished in the left-hand corner following a slick first-phase move from a line-out.
It proved an influential cameo from Tompkins with a turnover penalty and pinpoint pass in the build-up to Adams' try before McNicholl returned after passing his head injury assessment.
It was carnival stuff as Adams dived over for his second try following an outrageous reverse pass between his legs from Biggar for a score which he also converted.
Scrum-half Williams just failed to score a deserved first-half try after he failed to gather his charge-down of Allen's kick with the Italy line looming.
Wales defence coach Byron Hayward would have been pleased when his side held out the Italian's driving line-out just before half-time with Wales leading 21-0 at the interval.
Italy fought back in the early stages of the second half but failed to trouble the Welsh defence. Pivac made a couple of changes with Ross Moriarty replacing Faletau and Tompkins returning for Hadleigh Parkes to form a new centre partnership with North.
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Wales tight-head prop Dillon Lewis, starting because Tomas Francis was sidelined through injury, was struggling in the scrum as the Cardiff Blues front-rower conceded a couple of set-piece penalties in a scrappy aimless third quarter.
Tompkins rose above the mediocrity for a superb debut Test try after he was the beneficiary of build-up work from replacements Rob Evans and Cory Hill and Biggar.
There was a significant moment when replacement scrum-half Rhys Webb replaced Williams for his first Test since December 2017 following his international exile caused by his move to Toulon.
Webb almost had an immediate impact by linking with Tompkins for a try for North but a bonus-point score was ruled out following a knock-on.
North finally grabbed his 40th try of his Test career to equal Gareth Thomas as the second leading try scorer in Welsh history behind Shane Williams. Also it was North's 20th tournament try - more importantly it gave Wales maximum match points.
Adams provided a fitting finale with his hat-trick following a storming break from North.
Wales coach Wayne Pivac said:
"It was a pretty good performance. We got the five points we were after but it wasn't easy, we had to work hard for it.
"We were pleased to have held them scoreless. That doesn't happen often at this level of the game and I'm pretty pleased for Byron Hayward (defence coach) coming in.
"The boys want to play a bit more and at times we achieved that but at times we might have overplayed. There is still plenty to work on."
Italy interim head coach Franco Smith:
"Wales are a top side. It's a pity that we had to have our first start in this way against them.
"But then again, I'd rather lose against the best the way we did then maybe just lose against another team that is not in the same form that this team is. I think Wales rugby can be proud of this group of men they've got here.
"The result is not a reflection of the quality of the side.
"If you look at the game again, you will see it was errors on our side, it wasn't a lack of commitment and ability."
Wales: Halfpenny; McNicholl, North, Parkes, Adams; Biggar, Williams; Wyn Jones, Owens, Lewis, Ball, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Wainwright, Tipuric, Faletau.
Replacements: Elias, Evans, Brown, Hill, Moriarty, Webb, Evans, Tompkins.
Italy: Minozzi; Sarto, Morisi, Canna, Bellini; Allan, Braley; Lovotti, Bigi (capt), Zilocchi, Zanni, Cannone, Polledri, Negri, Steyn.
Replacements: Zani, Fischetti, Riccioni, Budd, Lazzaroni, Licata, Palazzani, Hayward.
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Touch judges: Matthew Carley (England) & Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
TMO: James Leckie (Australia)