Wales obliterate Italy to claim Six Nations runners-up spot
Published 19/03/2016 | 16:47
Wales secured runners-up spot in this season's RBS 6 Nations Championship after running riot against outclassed visitors Italy.
A week after seeing their title hopes destroyed by England at Twickenham, Wales responded with a nine-try romp that left the Azzurri battered and breathless, beaten 67-14 at the Principality Stadium.
It was Wales' record Six Nations win, surpassing a 51-3 scoreline against Scotland in Cardiff two years ago.
Ross Moriarty (2), George North, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, Liam Williams, Rhys Webb, Gareth Davies and Dan Biggar claimed touchdowns, with Biggar kicking five conversions and two penalties for a 21-point haul, while Rhys Priestland added three late conversions.
Italy claimed second-half consolation scores from scrum-half Guglielmo Palazzani and centre Gonzalo Garcia, with Kelly Haimona kicking two conversions, but they suffered another landslide Six Nations defeat just seven days on from conceding 58 points against Ireland.
As in Rome last season, when Wales reduced Italy to ruins by posting a 41-point winning margin, the Azzurri had no answer to Wales' vastly-superior power and pace.
Man-of-the-match North, meanwhile, became only the second Wales player after Shane Williams eight years ago to score tries in four successive Six Nations Tests.
Wales showed four changes from the team beaten by England last weekend, with wing Hallam Amos, scrum-half Webb, who suffered a World Cup-ending foot injury against Italy in Cardiff six months ago, lock Luke Charteris and flanker Justin Tipuric all handed starts.
Dan Lydiate captained Wales for the first time in a Test match with Sam Warburton sidelined because of concussion, and Six Nations strugglers Italy showed five changes from a 58-15 drubbing by Ireland seven days ago for head coach Jacques Brunel's final game in charge.
Wales predictably made the early running against opponents already consigned to this season's wooden spoon, and they went ahead after five minutes following a trademark midfield charge from Roberts.
Italy could not cope with Wales' quick and physical approach, and Webb darted in from close range for a sixth try in his last 12 Wales appearances, with Biggar's conversion opening up a 7-0 lead.
Wales continued to show plenty of attacking intent, although wing George North and full-back Williams both required treatment after being on the receiving end of heavy collisions, before Biggar kicked a penalty to put the home side 10 points clear.
Wales then lost an injured Tipuric after 16 minutes, with Gloucester back-row forward Moriarty replacing him for his Six Nations debut, and Italy were immediately reduced to 14 men when Palazzani was sin-binned for illegally halting a quick Webb penalty.
Wales added a second try 11 minutes before half-time, and it was all too easy as Biggar sliced through Italy's defence, found Roberts in support, and the centre's return pass sent Biggar over for a score that he also converted.
Wales had the bit between their teeth, and they delivered a brilliantly-executed try four minutes later after Biggar ran from inside his own 22, with Roberts, North and Williams all handling before finished off with a 40-metre run to the line.
Biggar's conversion made it 27-0, leaving Italy in major damage-limitation mode as another landslide Six Nations defeat beckoned, with their cause not helped by wing Mattia Bellini and centre Andrea Pratichetti both limping off injured in quick succession.
Wales required just five minutes of the second half to pile further misery on Italy, and this time it was Roberts who benefited from excellent approach play that went through numerous phases before North produced a superb assist with a one-handed offload.
North then took centre-stage when he left Italian defenders trailing in his take on a 50-metre run that ended with him touching down behind the posts.
Biggar's conversion took Wales 39 points clear, although Italy rallied to exert some pressure and gain a consolation effort when Palazzani went over from close range and Haimona added added the conversion.
But Wales immediately resumed normal service when Williams finished well for his team's sixth try that made it 46-7 entering the final quarter.
And although Italy claimed another score, Wales inevitably finished strongly with Moriarty - twice - and Davies adding further touchdowns to leave their opponents shell-shocked.